Michelle and Steven Underhill lost their daughter, Elle, in a head-on crash on the Bruxner Highway in 2015.
Michelle and Steven Underhill lost their daughter, Elle, in a head-on crash on the Bruxner Highway in 2015. Liana Turner

Grieving mum calls for mandatory dashcams in cars

THERE'S nothing that could erase the pain of losing a child.

But one mother whose young daughter was killed in a Bruxner Highway crash has called for dashcam technology to be mandatory for all vehicles, hoping such a move could make our roads safer and provide better answers for families.

Michelle and Steven Underhill lost their four-year-old daughter, Elle, in a head-on crash between Casino and Lismore days before Christmas in 2015.

Elle's babysitter at the time and the driver of the car she was travelling in, Courteney Matthews, was sentenced in April to a community corrections order, 300 hours community service and $1500 in fines after pleading guilty to negligent driving occasioning death.

Even on the day of her sentencing, however, exactly what caused the crash was unclear although the presence of loose material was likely to have contributed to a loss of traction, the court heard.

There was no evidence Matthews had been distracted by a device or speeding and she was not under the influence of any substance, the court has heard.

Coupled with the unimaginable pain of losing their eldest of two girls, Ms Underhill said the family had been tormented by a lack of clear answers about exactly what went wrong.

In an online petition, she has called on the state and federal governments to consider making dashcams mandatory and for them to become a basic inclusion when cars are manufactured.

"I obviously wouldn't want anyone else to be in our situation but if they did find themselves in our situation... it has a couple of different benefits," she said.

"I think the stress and torment that you go through as a family, not knowing what exactly went wrong ... (footage) would help with the grieving side of things."

Ms Underhill said an increased use of dashcams could also help to protect drivers who were involved in incidents and were not at fault and may encourage more careful driver behaviour generally.

When incidents still occur, she said it might "achieve a better outcome" for everyone involved.

"Our court case dragged on for a lot longer than it probably needed to, for a variety of reasons I suppose," she said.

"We live in an age of technology and we can't deny that.

"They're talking about driverless cars... I don't understand why (dash cams) are not being put in place as part of car manufacturing processes.

"To me, it's just common sense."

Ms Underhill said she understood dashcam may not, realistically, be mandated, but hoped even one more person would consider the technology as a result of Elle's death.

For police, public appeals for dashcam footage after all manner of incident have become commonplace.

Richmond Police District Chief Inspector Nicole Bruce said police were "always appreciative" when such footage, offering a definitive account, was made available to them.

"I'd like to think that if more people use dashcams that it would increase the safety of our road users as people should be aware that their actions may be detected," Insp Bruce said.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said while they wouldn't support a mandatory dashcam law _ a move he said was reserved for objectively life saving tools like seatbelts - the organisation encouraged their use, which has increased generally.

"We encourage people to put dashcams in their car for a raft of reasons," Mr Khoury said.

Federal Page MP Kevin Hogan said he'd encourage Ms Underhill to present her petition to the State Government.

"I believe dashcams can be very useful for police in determining how a crash occurred," Mr Hogan said.

"They also encourage people to drive safer on our roads."

Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/scott-morrison-mandatory-dash-cams



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