11 September 2019

Cycling widow calls on community to take the Road Safety Week Pledge

| Ian Campbell
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Bega - Candelo Road. Louise Brand says attitudes need to change. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Bega – Candelo Road, April 2019. Louise Brand says attitudes need to change. Photo: Ian Campbell.

“I don’t want David’s death to be in vain,” Merimbula’s Louise Brand says.

“We need to start talking about road rage and dealing with that.”

Louise Brand is a person who understands the impact of road trauma all too well. Tragically her partner of 40 years David, a fit and vibrant 72-year-old father, was catastrophically injured in a road rage incident while he was riding his bike with friends on Mt Darragh Road, west of Pambula last year. He never recovered and died in hospital on July 3, 2018.

In February, Thirty-seven-year-old Lochiel man Nathan Cumming was given a 12-month Intensive Correction Order, fined $5,000, and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service, for his undisputed role in David’s death.

Louise Brand, outside Bega Local Court. Photo: Alasdair McDonald & Ian Campbell.

Louise Brand, outside Bega Local Court. Photo: Alasdair McDonald & Ian Campbell.

Reading her powerful victim’s impact statement to Mr Cumming and the court, Mrs Brand pointed to her campaign for change.

“On June 23 of last year, Mr Cumming, you chose to confront my then 72-year-old husband, who had recently retired after a lifetime of work as a school teacher, farmer and café proprietor, as he was cycling legally on his pushbike, on a public road,” Mrs Brand said.

“That confrontation resulted in his death.

“With all due respect to this court, [I have] complete disillusionment with a legal system that sees a man’s wrongful death reduced to a ‘Grievous Bodily Harm’ charge,” she said.

Mrs Brand is now calling for a Coronial Inquest into the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death, supported by formal and informal cycling groups across Southern NSW.

“Every year, more than 1,200 people are killed and another 35,000 seriously injured on Australian roads,” says Doug Reckord, Secretary of Bega Tathra Safe Ride.

“Traffic injury is the biggest killer of Australian children under 15 and the second-biggest killer of all Australians aged between 15 and 24. These numbers are growing every year but are fully preventable.

National Road Safety Week from May 6 to 12 is an annual initiative to highlights the impact of road trauma and ways to reduce it.”

David and Louise Brand, cycling in Merimbula. Photo: Supplied.

David and Louise Brand, cycling in Merimbula. Photo: Supplied.

Mrs Brand believes there are grassroot changes we call all adopt.

“How can we all – car drivers, pedestrians, horse riders, skateboarders, bicycle riders, all road users, become more patient and tolerant to all who use the road and put an end to road rage?” she asks.

“Stop and think before you act thoughtlessly or in anger when we use the road. Treat all road users with compassion and respect – remember every road user is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s mother or father, who is loved.

“Know your road rules and obey them. Know the minimum passing distance laws that allow motorists to cross double lines to overtake bike riders when it is safe to do so.”

Mrs Brand and Bega Tathra Safe Ride ask all road users to take the National Road Safety Week Pledge:

As every life is precious, I pledge to drive as if my loved ones are on the road ahead.

I will remove all distractions and promise to never use my mobile phone while behind the wheel.

I will not put other people at risk by speeding, driving while tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

I pledge to protect all vulnerable road users, especially those whose job places them in harm’s way, by slowing down and giving them the space they need to be safe.

Mr Reckord adds, “display a yellow ribbon to remember those who have lost their lives on our roads.”

Beyond what we can all do as individuals, Mrs Brand is arguing for cultural change within legal and political circles.

“I am advocating for more active police enforcement of the safe passing legislation, that law was passed in 2016 and my understanding is that it is rarely enforced,” she says.

The rule requires drivers of a motor vehicle to leave a minimum distance when passing bicycle riders – at least 1 metre between the motor vehicle and a bicycle rider when passing a on a road with a speed limit of 60km/h and below. Drivers must leave at least 1.5m when they pass a bicycle rider on a road with a speed limit above 60km/h.

If drivers cannot pass the bicycle rider safely, they should slow down and wait until the next safe opportunity to do so.

And bicycle riders are permitted to ride two abreast in the same lane. However, when riding two abreast, riders must travel within 1.5 metres of the other rider. This means that riders should ride as close together as safe to do so.

Mrs Brand is also calling for a NSW Police Crash Investigation Unit to be based locally and for harsher road rage penalties.

The annual Bega Tathra community bike ride later this year will be named in David Brand’s honour, Mrs Brand is considering taking part, she hasn’t been back on her bike since the day her husband was critically injured.

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