Drivers need to be forced to slow down when passing emergency vehicles, “before someone gets killed”.
That’s the call being made by Tasmania’s volunteer firefighters.
While new road rules restricting drivers to 40km/h at the scene of a crash or emergency were announced in Victoria earlier this week, there continues to be no legislation to directly address the issue in Tasmania.
Northern president of the Tasmanian Volunteer Fire Brigades Association, Don Mackrill, said the organisation had been calling for the reduction for “many years” and had more recently raised the issue with the state government through the support of MLC Ivan Dean.
On behalf of the volunteers, Mr Dean has this week written to Minister Rene Hidding, who is responsible for both the emergency services and infrastructure portfolios.
The 40km/h limit introduced in Victoria, however, is not what the volunteers are pushing for.
They are instead urging the government to introduce a speed limit of 25km/h, mirroring South Australian legislation which came into effect in 2014.
“You can speed through roadworks and you will get booked … but there is no legislation to protect our members,” Mr Mackrill said.
“There are situations where our members have to stop their vehicles on the highways and roads to facilitate an emergency response, and their minds are on the emergency so it’s quite easy to not be thinking about your own safety then be at risk of getting hit.
“The last thing we want is to see someone killed, whether that be a volunteer or career firefighter or any other emergency worker.”
Tasmanian Road Safety Advisory Council chair Jim Cox said while it was a matter for the government to introduce new laws, he believed no penalty would be “too harsh” for drivers who put emergency workers at risk.
“It astounds me that people could see the flashing lights, the firefighters, the police, the ambulance and not slow down,” Mr Cox said.
“If there are people that do continue to travel at excess speed near crash scenes then they deserve every punishment they get.”
The state’s police association agreed it was a “notable safety issue”, but has no plans to push for a reduction at this stage.
“We will keep an eye on how things work out in Victoria and maybe look at the issue at a later time,” president Pat Allen said.
A state government spokesman said Minister Rene Hidding would discuss the issue further with key stakeholders, including volunteer emergency workers.
“The safety of our emergency service workers is a top priority and the Minister is open to the idea, having heard of examples where workers may have been put at risk due to vehicles not slowing down,” they said.