Road rules to protect emergency workers

St George & Sutherland Shire Leader  |  Wednesday 12 July 2017

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AUSTRALIA’s emergency workers know the horrifying realities of the road toll all too well, as they respond to serious accidents on a daily basis.

All are committed to bringing down the road toll and any rules, and measures, which increase safety for drivers.

In New South Wales, I believe more needs to be done to protect emergency workers on the road – specifically - a new law that requires drivers to slow to 40 kilometres an hour when passing a stationary, or slow moving, emergency vehicle with flashing lights or sirens.

Drivers should only increase their speed again, when reaching a safe distance from the scene.

This would be consistent with steps Victoria and South Australia have taken to protect emergency service workers.

It is the same law we use in other areas of the community where vulnerable road users are present, like school zones, school buses and roadwork sites.

Tragically, a number of emergency workers have been killed and injured on Australian roads after being struck by passing vehicles or debris and a recent survey in Victoria also found out that one in five emergency service works said they had four or more ‘near misses’ while stopped on the roadside over the past three years.

As the representative Association of the 74,000 members of the NSW Rural Fire Service, I believe this measure is vital in protecting NSW RFS members, and all emergency services workers.

Our emergency service workers have stressful and demanding jobs, protecting the community when they are often at their most vulnerable.

It is imperative that they can do their job without fear of being injured or killed by a passing vehicle.

Given the frequency of interstate fire-fighting arrangements during major emergencies, consistent road rules nationally would be logical in minimising accidents and protecting the safety of emergency service workers, protecting the community, right across the nation. It would also assist drivers when travelling interstate.

The safety of our members is paramount, and the RFSA will continue to lobby and work with Government in advocating the adoption of a 40km per hour speed limit as a means to safeguard the safety of the people, who protect and safeguard the community.

Ken Middleton, RFSA President