FOLLOWING a spate of accidents in recent months, Alison Balding has become the first road safety officer for the Upper Hunter, Muswellbrook and Singleton LGAs.
She was appointed to help reduce crashes by improving people’s skills and attitudes, particularly L-platers.
This will be done through free learning programs, aimed at educating young road users, as well as offering the chance for experienced drivers to become instructors.
Ms Balding has experience working with learners, having spent time at The Salvation Army teaching disadvantaged youths how to be responsible on the road.
She feels this role was well-suited to her, given her strong desire to keep people safe and ensure there’s less injuries and deaths moving forward.
“I’m really passionate about young learner drivers being educated well about road safety, and developing good habits is really, really important,” Ms Balding said.
She highlighted a couple of issues for the wider community, saying that speed and fatigue contributed to incidents locally at a much higher rate than the rest of the state.
Speed accounts for 32.3 per cent of accidents, while fatigue attributes for 15 per cent, which is almost double to state average in both categories.
But, the most concerning statistic was the Upper Hunter has about 5.1 per cent times more the fatalities as the rest of NSW.
Ms Balding wanted to emphasise the human aspect, pointing out the heartache behind those kinds of figures.
“That’s (the statistics) all people, they’re not just stats,” she said.
“Every time something happens on the road, that is someone’s family member, or someone’s colleague or someone’s friend at school.
“It impacts on families, and that ripple effect is quite devastating.
“So, being able to do something that addresses such a big issue is really important.”
She said while operating in such a big area would be a challenge, it could create an opportunity for councils to work together and put some important systems in place.
Being the first road safety officer in the region will mean there is a trial and error aspect about the job, but the creation of the position means the district will finally have someone working around the clock to make the roads safer.
For more information, contact road safety officer Alison Balding on 0429 664 036.