Police are asking motorists on NSW roads to be cautious as the road toll takes an unfortunate increase over the past few weeks.
Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay has described the recent events as heartbreaking. Including the first week of February, the road toll stands at 48 for NSW.
"We're just over a month into the year and sadly many families across our state are grieving the loss of loved ones," said Mr Gay in a recent release.
State responds with high visibility campaign
In response to the alarming rise in fatal incidents, NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol are rolling out Operation Saturation, a high visibility intensive campaign in an effort to curb reckless driving and other infringements.
According to Transport for NSW, Operation Saturation has full financial support from the Community Road Safety Fund, which works to utilise any fine money collected to develop safer roads.
The operation will be comprised of a 'crackdown' running until Wednesday February 18 targeting dangerous driving behaviours such as speeding, drink or drug driving, as well as illegal mobile phone use and seat belt offences.
The entire NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol fleet will be carrying out Operation Saturation, with assistance from local police. According to Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, it is key that all road users understand that the police operation is for their own safety.
"Operation Saturation is about putting all of our available resources on the roads in order to deter poor driver behaviour as well as prosecute those that are doing the wrong thing."
Speed still the biggest killer
Looking at the numbers in a 12 year study from Transport for NSW, speed remains the biggest factor in fatal crashes, with alcohol and driving while fatigued close runners up.
"Despite the presence of highly-visible highway patrol cars and motorcycles, there are some motorists that continue to put their lives and the lives of their passengers and other road users at risk," Assistant Commissioner Hartley said in a recent police media release.
It was a concern shared by NSW Police's Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith at the announcement of Operation Saturation.
"Risk taking at high speed is a deadly combination and we're appealing to people to consider just how fine the line is between a bad judgement and a death on our roads."
Last month's January road toll is reported to be four times that recorded a year ago, according to Mr Gay, who is recommending driver vigilance in efforts to keep the road toll from rising further. Incidents reported during Operation Saturation include a case of extreme speeding where police stopped a man driving at an alleged 165km/h in an 80km/h zone in the early hours of the morning in Mascot.
Motorbike incidents most concerning
Continuing to be a concern from earlier this year, motorbike accidents have been on the rise, with 13 reported casualties – over double the toll from the same period last year. According to the General Manager Centre for Road Safety Marg Prendergast, these figures were especially upsetting as they mark the highest number of motorcycle fatalities since 1996.
National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA) President Kyle Loades, said that precautions needed to be taken before starting each journey such as planning rest stops and not driving when tired or after drinking, as well as assuring all passengers are wearing seatbelts and that you have a hands-free device for your mobile phone.
"The NRMA welcomes this new high visibility campaign," said Mr Loades in a recent media statement with NSW Police, "we know that education coupled with enforcement is a powerful mix for helping change driver behaviour and that is something we all want to see."
Ms Prendergast noted that issues were most prevalent amongst middle-aged riders, with those aged between 40-59 making up two out of every three motorcycle fatalities.
"Most fatal motorcycle crashes so far this year are happening on weekends on country roads," says Ms Prendergast.