When road tragedy strikes, there is an endless list of people affected.
From the victims to their loved ones to the emergency service workers attending the scene.
Two people who know firsthand the horrific consequences of road tragedy are Tasmania Police officers Senior Sergeant Nick Clark and First-Class Constable Nigel Housego.
Between them, they have been called to hundreds of fatal crashes.
And despite more than 50 years on the job combined, it never gets easier for either of them.
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Having been a frontline crash investigator for four years and overseeing the Launceston crash investigation service for the past five years, Senior Sergeant Clark said everyone reacts differently.
“All crash investigators, all police officers, all emergency service workers are just like normal members of the public … we’re all human,” he said.
As part of The Examiner’s In Your Hands Christmas road safety campaign, Senior Sergeant Clark is reminding road users of the devastating effects of not paying attention.
And he speaks from experience, having been to countless crashes where people “shouldn’t have died”.
“Simple things like wearing their seatbelt would have saved their life,” he said.
The tragedy doesn’t end at the crash scene either.
That would have to be one of the worst parts of policing.Senior Sergeant Nick Clark
Police are tasked with the devastating duty of informing family members their loved one has been killed – it’s often referred to as the death knock.
“That would have to be one of the worst parts of policing,” Senior Sergeant Clark said.
“I haven’t had to do a lot of them in my policing career, probably four or five, but you remember them.
“I had to do one about 15 years ago when I was stationed elsewhere … and I actually knew the people involved and talking to the family was just horrific.”
While most people have holidays at Christmas, crash investigators continue to be on call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I remember a couple of days before Christmas ... I was interviewing a driver from a fatal motor vehicle crash and my phone rang,” Senior Sergeant Clark recalled.
“It was our radio room, our communications room, advising me of another fatal crash that had just happened down the Midlands.”
Senior Sergeant Clark soon realised he had mutual friends with the victim of that crash.
“A lot of their friends were a lot of my good friends and I’ll never forget that crash because it was so close to Christmas and had a devastating effect on that family like it does on all families, but it just made it a little bit more personal because of the friends in common we had,” he said.
For First-Class Constable Housego, going to a crash at Christmas has become “part of the job”.
But despite experiencing hundreds of scenes, the veteran investigator still finds it hard to see families broken.
“It’s later on, when you’re dealing with the families that the whole thing just becomes so human,” he said.
“You can see the grief that it’s caused and none of those people expected they would be involved in a fatal crash.”
Coming home from a crash, First-Class Constable Housego said it wasn’t uncommon for his daughters to know where he had been – often having seen news of the tragedy on social media.
“I’d go home and my daughters would meet me and say ‘we know whose crash you went to’,” he said.
“I think my family just see it as me heading off to work … I have no idea how they really feel, they probably wouldn’t tell me.”
Each time there is a fatality on a road in Tasmania, it’s not just the police officers called to the scene, First-Class Constable Housego said.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is there’s a lot of volunteers in the community who also go to these crashes, like SES and rural fire brigades and I don’t think I even understood that when I first started in crash investigations,” he said.
“They volunteer their time and they come out to these crashes and they are subjected to what we are and probably not prepared for it in the way we are.
“I often think of how it’s affected them.”
Both Senior Sergeant Clark and First-Class Constable Housego expressed similar safety messages for road users this Christmas – to arrive home alive.
“No matter what you are doing, walking, being a pedestrian or a cyclist or a motorcyclist or driving in another type of vehicle, you are not guaranteed to get home ...it would be great if you were … but just think about that, think about getting home to your family,” First-Class Constable Housego said.
“And think about how you would feel if you caused somebody else’s death.”
... think about how you would feel if you caused somebody else’s deathFirst-Class Constable Nigel Housego
Senior Sergeant Clark added road users should “plan their trip”.
“Take your time, don’t rush … .the key thing is to make sure you get there safely and take care of not only yourself and your family but everyone else out there on the roads,” he said.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by a road tragedy, Road Trauma Support Tasmania is available on 6777 6252.