Safety first: the police initiative saving lives in Sydney's west

Image/NSW Police
Image/NSW Police  

A Traffic and Highway Patrol Command officer is making car travel safer for disadvantaged families in Sydney's west by ensuring children are properly restrained in car seats from the moment they're born.

"I've been a highway patrolman for nearly 20 years," says Sergeant Greg Donaldson, who is stationed in Mt Druitt, in a video posted to Facebook. 

"In that time I've taken many dead children out of cars. In NSW in the ten years leading up to 2018, there were 66 child-age restraint kids killed in car crashes in NSW.

"About half of those weren't restrained properly ... and about half of those lives would have been saved had that child been restrained correctly."

According to Sergeant Donaldson, although Aboriginal children only account for five per cent of the children in NSW, they accounted for 20 per cent of the fatalities.

"I think that's outrageous," he says. "Why should one section of our community be over-represented in those sorts of statistics?"

When the officer noticed that they were issuing tickets to the same people for the same traffic offences he realised more needed to be done to address the issue.

"It was not a case of these drivers deliberately putting their children at risk – they did not have the funds to purchase the most up-to-date child restraint seats and were instead buying all they could afford; second-hand seats that were not up to safety regulations or installed correctly," Sergeant Donaldson says.

"Now, with a fine on top of that, it was making it harder for them to afford a safe seat for their children. I wanted to fix that."

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Two years ago, Sergeant Donaldson started an initiative working closely with health professionals and Aboriginal members of his local community.

"These were news mums, sometimes very young mums,who were a little unsure about how to restrain their children in their cars. We used local midwifery and health care clinics to identify families who needed help."

He then sourced car seats to be provided free of charge to those who needed them most.

"The warmness is my heart and happiness I feel when my nurse and midwife and health care workers text me a photo of their latest client or patient with their two-day old baby restrained safely in one of my car seats ... you have no idea how good it makes me feel.

"I'd rather do this one thousands times than have to go to one child fatality."

Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, Assistant Commissioner Karen Webb believes the initiative has the potential to benefit many people across the state. 

"Sgt Donaldson has really made a difference in the Mt Druitt community and reduced the amount of infringement notices for this offence," Assistant Commissioner Webb said.

"Our officers aren't just here to issue tickets and arrest traffic offenders – we want to educate the community on road safety and have this early intervention to reduce the risk of injury or fatalities for road users.

"This initiative is also a great conversation starter between the community and police; whether it be about other traffic matters or other incidents in the area."