Grieving dad unites with families in plea for road change
The father of three children killed when an allegedly drunk driver ploughed into them as they walked on a footpath to buy ice cream has paused in his grief to plead for radical changes to laws governing drinking alcohol and driving.
Danny Abdallah, who laid to rest Sienna, 8, Angelina, 12 and Antony, 13, on Monday, said
he wanted to see the State government reduce the alcohol limit to zero, while empowering licensed venues and their security guards to stop intoxicated patrons from getting behind the wheel by having powers like taking their car keys.
Ignition interlocks should also be placed in cars to stop intoxicated drivers from being able to start the engine.
"I also think there should be a 0:0 alcohol limit," he said.
"It's a domino effect. If you have one beer, it's too easy to have another. If you go out and have the mindset that you can't drink, you won't be tempted. If you know you can't drink, you are not going to play with the clock."
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The deeply faithful Maronite Christian said he abstained from alcohol during lent, and knowing that he was not allowed a drink meant he was never tempted.
Mr Abdallah and his wife Leila are still coming to terms with the tragedy that claimed the lives of three of their children, as well as their cousin Veronique Sakr, 10, and left another of the family's cousins, fighting for life in a coma at Oatlands, in Sydney's northwest about 8pm on Saturday, February 1.
"We are taking it hour by hour," Mr Abdallah said.
"That's all we can do. We are literally taking it hour by hour."
Samuel William Davidson, 29, was allegedly three times the legal blood alcohol limit when he drove a 4WD into the group of seven children. He is facing 20 charges, including four counts of manslaughter.
The horrific incident has ignited the issue of road safety, and Mr Abdallah said he supported any moves for a forum on road safety,
Dianne Proctor, whose policeman husband Tim died after a woman suffering a medical episode struck his car in a head-on smash and Brodie Donegan, whose unborn daughter died at 32 weeks in a car crash involving a drugged driver, have joined Mr Abdallah in a growing chorus of voices calling for a debate about reducing road fatalities.
Ms Proctor hasn't driven down Heathcote Road, Lucas Heights, since her husband's death a little over a year ago.
Probationary constable Timothy Proctor died aged 29 after a car travelling in the opposite directed drifted across the road before colliding with his vehicle.
At the time, there were no lane dividers on the winding 100km/h road despite the speed limit being just 10km/h less than a standard freeway.
Ms Proctor said her husband's crash could not be described as an accident when measures to ensure the road was safe had not been implemented.
"If the road had been improved, it may not have saved Tim's life - you can't say it wouldn't have happened - but at least if everything had been addressed, had the issues with the road been addressed, you could call it an accident," she said.
"But this wasn't an accident. The road is a deathtrap."
After the crash, and following ongoing calls from local residents, the RMS reduced the speed limit on the road from 100km to 90km.
For Ms Proctor, it was too late, however she said she did not want her husband's death to have been in vain.
She said there needed to be a discussion on how to improve road safety, including prioritising traffic mitigation measures in known black spots and harsher penalties.
"I want (Tim's death) to mean something. As horrific as it was, I really want it to mean something," she said.
"My son is going to grow up without his father.
"We want something to come out of this. There is a lot of talk about the road toll, about the numbers. But behind every number is a life. In some cases, it will not be possible. Some people will always drink drive. But if something is waiting to happen, it is not an accident."
Ourimbah mother of three Brodie Donegan, 39, said she wanted greater education on the effect of legal drugs on driving ability, an expansion of point-to-point speed cameras and autonomous braking systems in cars.
"People don't think it can happen to them," she said.
"Until you go through it, you really don't understand. It's not just being the victim, what if you killed somebody's child or mum? I think there is a lot we can do, but my main point is for there to be a lot more education on speeding and the impact of drugs.
Bronko Hoang, whose 23-year-old wife Katherine and their unborn twins were killed in fatal crash on The Northern Road in 2018, said greater use of wheel-clamping to physically stop offenders from driving needed to be implemented.
Mr Hoang said while he supported any measures to improve road safety, it would not bring back his family.
"No matter what the penalty is, we will never get our loved ones back," he told The Sunday Telegraph.
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Trauma Committee Chair Dr John Crozier said the failure to meet the goal of a 30 per cent reduction of road trauma a - agreed by the Commonwealth, States and Territories as part of the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-20 - meant it was time for some "hard" decisions.
Dr Crozier, who works as a trauma surgeon at Liverpool Hospital, said part of the problem was that individual jurisdictions "cherrypicked" from the available safety measures.
RACS is calling for a raft of road safety measures to be implemented, including the expansion of point to point cameras to include passenger cars instead of only heavy vehicles, a significant improvement of the physical condition of roads, the removal of tariffs on imported vehicles with proven lifesaving technologies such as autonomous emergency braking systems and requiring vehicles to be fitted with Event Data Recorders to allow pre-crash information to be recorded and used in further research.
"Tuesday morning 3am I was presented with a patient who had fallen down an embankment after a vehicle impact with tourniquet over both thighs," Dr Crozier said.
"He is one of a hundred that are coming in to hospitals across Australia each day.
"It's just business as usual. We have the mechanism to reduce road trauma. With appropriate leadership, we can reduce death and serious injury."