Grieving father’s heartbreak inspires pledge
CHERISHED nights spent stargazing and overindulging on Nutella are some of the memories Adrian Barnett takes comfort in since the untimely death of his daughter Emily Barnett.
Sadly, there will be no future memories created for the pair as he grapples with the nightmare no parent dare hope to face.
The father-of-three visited Rockhampton's Kershaw Gardens to mark the national launch of Rural Road Safety Month, offering a glimpse into the tragic reality of those left to mourn the victims of fatal traffic crashes.
Led by the Australian Road Safety Foundation, 835 hats were laid out in tribute to the lives lost on roads nationwide last year - two-thirds of them occurring on rural roads.
Now in its third year, the campaign hopes to prompt a reduction of the national road death toll through the reinforced importance of driver safety and awareness.
With brother Leyland and sister Davina at his side, Mr Barnett - mostly stoic as he spoke - reflected on both the heartbreak and legacy his eldest daughter left behind.
"To many of you, she will only be a number in this year's car incident casualties list, or name you'll hear a few time in the news. But to myself and my family, she was the past 21 years of our lives," Mr Barnett said.
"That all stopped on the 29th of May 2020 when she left in a little black Toyota RAV 4 to collect her mail and didn't come home."
Ms Barnett was tragically killed in a head-on collision on the Bruce Highway at Midgee, her good friend Emily Reid sustained critical injuries.
The 56-year-old male driver of the other vehicle also suffered life-threatening injuries.
"Each day we take our lives in our hands while on the roads and in a moment it can all change, unfortunately in our story Emily did not even have time to react with what she faced," Mr Barnett said.
"We as drivers all make important decisions while all on the road. Almost all traffic incidents are preventable, hence the term accidents no longer being used."
Since Ms Barnett's death, loved ones have dedicated their efforts to campaigning for road safety.
A new billboard will tomorrow be erected near the site of the fatal crash in memory of both her and other victims of road trauma.
"The community rallied together and generously donated for this billboard."
"It is hoped that it will send a strong message out to drivers about the importance of road safety and the consequences of [a driver's] actions."
The now retired first responder relived the horrors associated with attending fatal road traumas and the subsequent effects had on those attending.
"Some of those images still haunt me to this day," he revealed.
"We understand that this billboard won't put an end to the casualties on the road, it is simply to reinforce the message of self-responsibility for our actions as road users, the importance of safe practices and to remember the lives of everyone involved."
Mr Barnett further broke his silence to extend gratitude to both local businesses and residents for their unwavering support.
"During this difficult time, we never would have expected such community support we received," he said.
"The humanity and empathy shown by many local businesses offering their services for free or providing much-needed support was a great relief.
"To all the first responders who cared for Emily and the two others involved in the crash, we wish to extend our sincere gratitude."
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry, Councillors Shane Latcham and Dean Wickerson and Acting Inspector for Queensland Police Service Cameron Barwick also attended the launch.
ARSF founder and CEO Russell White labelled the campaign a "poignant reminder," adding driver awareness was crucial to seeing the number of fatal crashes decrease nationwide.
"Road trauma in this country is a tremendous coast to us as a nation, from the social and human impact costs."
He further implored drivers to remove potential distractions, maintain a safe speed and ensure a well-rested commute.
Queensland Government this year invested $25 million under the Black Spot program, along with a $500 million targeted road safety works package.