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Warren Clark

Don’t throw stones into other people’s homes

December 2017

It’s been particularly troubling to hear stories about truck drivers being pelted with rocks and other dangerous objects yet again. It’s an ongoing problem. Professional truck drivers, minding their own business, are being targeted with stones, as well as bits of metal and wood. One driver was hospitalised in Moree late last year as a result – it could’ve been far worse.

The law makes the act of throwing objects such as rocks at vehicles a crime, even if you miss. The offence also applies to intentionally dropping an object on or toward a vehicle on a road, rail or waterway. Penalties can include jail for up to five years.

Through our recent online survey into this issue, NatRoad heard from drivers from all over the country that had been the targets of rock-throwing assaults in New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia – from Bathurst to Beenleigh, Boggabilla, Brisbane, Cooma, Wilcannia, Peak Hill, Woodford and Fitzroy Crossing. Moree, despite the town bypass, has clearly been a recent hotspot though.

A number of drivers told NatRoad that their windscreens had been broken (with replacement costs upwards of $600), that passenger windows and headlights had been smashed, and that their vehicle had been dented and paintwork damaged as a result of rock throwing. One driver was even fined by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) for driving with a broken windscreen shortly after it was cracked by hidden rock-throwers at Moree – that seems particularly unfair.

But while fines can be paid and property can be fixed, things aren’t always so simple for people. The potential for serious injury or death in cases where projectiles are thrown at moving vehicles cannot be underestimated. Having a rock hit your vehicle can be very traumatic and shocking to the driver, but if they lose control of the vehicle as a consequence of such an event, the outcome can be catastrophic for them and for other road users.

That’s why it has been good to see the local police at Moree rapidly swinging into action to investigate the rock-throwing problem, recently detaining two 12-year-old children for throwing rocks at vehicles on the Newell Highway Bypass. Police describe rock throwing as a cowardly, dangerous and unacceptable act. And it is.

“The act of throwing a rock at a vehicle is not only cowardly and stupid, it is downright dangerous and police have and will take action against identified offenders,” said Moree’s crime manager, Detective Inspector David Silversides.

It has also been heartening to see the Moree Council being very proactive and responsible on this issue. The Council has developed short-, medium- and long-term strategies to address rock throwing. They have secured funding from both RMS and the Australian Rail Track Corporation ARTC (Inland Rail) to improve lighting along the bypass and to reduce hiding spots for offenders. The Council has also engaged extensively with the local community and supported a range of consultative, community and family education programs. Importantly, the message has been taken out to schools where the possible tragic consequences have been driven home to students.

Noting the high percentage of juvenile culprits involved in rock throwing, Moree Council spokesperson Angus Witherby told NatRoad: “The local community is working hard to improve parenting skills and youth engagement and to support families. Our local indigenous community has also developed an effective mobile surveillance program akin to a neighbourhood watch, which not only acts as a deterrent but provides extra eyes and ears to supplement police resources and increase efficiency.”

Witherby stressed the importance of the accurate and timely reporting of rock-throwing incidents to the police, including near misses, so that patterns, locations and incident times can be mapped and offenders identified quickly. The police urge anyone who witnesses or experiences rock throwing to contact them immediately by calling Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or by using the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.

Other councils would do well to take a leaf out of Moree’s book. The community needs to rally around and support our truck drivers and ensure they do not become the targets of thoughtless and dangerous acts such as these.

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