FOLLOWING a calamitous 2018 on Upper Hunter roads, the region welcomed eight new highway patrol officers to its ranks as part of a government roll-out aimed at targeting country areas.
Based in, but not limited to, Muswellbrook, they will be looking to enforce safe behaviour on the roads and pay particular attention to locations which are notorious for accidents and illegal activity.
Hunter Valley Police District Commander Superintendent Chad Gillies said he was thrilled to have the extra numbers – and hopes they can make a significant difference.
“I’m really thankful for this opportunity to work more closely with our highway patrol colleagues, to have this additional team up here will greatly enhance our local capabilities to address road trauma,” he explained.
Despite less deaths than in 2017 and a largely successful Christmas period, which featured no fatalities, 16 people still lost their lives on roads in the district in 2018, and Northern Region traffic tactician Chief Inspector Amanda Calder said that’s not good enough.
“The risk factors for crashes are speed, alcohol, drugs and fatigue,” she admitted.
“We are consistently seeing people committing those offences and we need people to not be complacent.”
Speed enforcement operations and random drug and alcohol testing will increase in frequency with the new staff, as the local police district looks to take control of an area that had 20 more drink driving offences than anywhere else in the Hunter Valley throughout 2017-18.
Chief Inspector Calder stated residents needed to embrace the messages being preached by law enforcement to help create a collectively safer environment for road users.
“We need the community to also come on board and understand that they play a huge part in the reduction of these serious injury and fatal crashes, and please take heed of the warnings from us,” she said.
The employees in these new roles come from diverse backgrounds within the force, with some having worked in the city, others from regional areas and a couple with local knowledge having previously spent time in the area.
Their addition has been touted since the NSW Government’s aforementioned announcement of 50 new patrol officers.
And, Chief Inspector Calder said the Hunter Valley was always destined to receive a decent portion.
There is yet to be a fatality in the district in 2019 and these new inclusions will hopefully extend that run for as long into the year as possible.