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Footage no parent should have to see

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When his daughter was born, Peter Frazer borrowed his brother-in-law's video camera to capture her joyful arrival into the world.


He would sometimes watch that footage and marvel at the woman Sarah was becoming - an adventurous soul who was rapidly filling her passport with stamp after stamp and had a burning passion for photography.


Tragically, it was just 23 short years later that her horrific death was captured on the dashcam of a tow truck that had arrived to take away her broken-down car.


"It was shown in court," Mr Frazer explained. "I am haunted by it. We asked the prosecutor and the judge that it never be released."


Sixty-three seconds after the man arrived to whisk her and her vehicle to safety, from the side of the busy Hume Highway near Mittagong in New South Wales, a distracted truck driver smashed into the pair.

They were both killed instantly.


"There was a guardrail that runs for 1600 metres, at the top of a hill, with brambles on the side, running down into a creek," Mr Frazer said.


"She was literally trapped on the highway. She couldn't get off the road. The emergency lane she pulled into was too narrow and not built to the safety standards set by authorities."


Sarah was driving south that day - February 15, 2012 - to her younger brother Ben's house ahead of his 21st birthday celebrations on the weekend.


Mr Frazer asked if she wanted to wait a day to travel with him. He was nervous about her driving alone - a notion she laughed off.


"She said to me, 'Dad, I'm travelling Australia's best road - what are you worried about?'


"Sarah had been to all these colourful places around the world that terrified us, third-world places on her own … and then she was killed on an Australian road when her car broke down."


Mr Frazer is sharing insight into his family's heartache as part of A Split Second - news.com.au's road safety campaign to highlight the human costs of our mammoth road toll.


Last year, 1226 Australians were killed in vehicle crashes across the country while 35,000 people were hospitalized with non-fatal injuries.


Behind every single number is a grieving family like Mr Frazer's who live with the crippling loss of loved ones every single day.


That day, he left for work early and was in a meeting with his phone switched off when Sarah called him after her car lost power.


"Cars and trucks are speeding past just centimetres away from my car," she said, her words immortalized in the voicemail message. "No one is changing lanes away from me … I am terrified that they will hit me. I rang the NRMA. Dad, please call me!"


It was some time before he heard it, after she and the tow driver were killed at 12.32pm.


"In the (dashcam) video you can see her standing in front of the car as he pulls up," Mr Frazer said. "I imagine she would've been so excited, so relieved that he was there. They had a bit of a chat, he was probably telling her to get her gear and get into the truck.


"It was 63 seconds from the time he arrived to a distracted truck driver smashing into them."


The court heard expert analysis that the driver travelled for a minimum distance of 309 metres, or for 11 seconds, without looking at the road.


He veered into the gutter lane, on a collision course with Sarah, and at 0.2 seconds from impact, slammed the wheel to the right so hard that his tires left an indent in the road.


"He killed Sarah and the tow truck driver," Mr Frazer said.


Out of respect for the tow truck driver's family and at their request, he doesn't use his name in interviews, such is the extent of their grief.


It's a pain he understands, particularly having had to witness his "smart, funny, kind and adventurous" child's final moments, those images seared into his memory.


"More and more people will have to see the kind of thing that we did, with dashcams being so common now," Mr Frazer said.


"I don't want people to see what happens to their loved ones. That's why I'm working in this space. No one should have to see that. No one should have to go through what my family has gone through and continues to go through."


Two days after Sarah's death, her brother Ben went to collect her belongings that police salvaged from her car. On the way home, he stopped at the spot where she died.


"He was traumatised, seeing where her blood still stained the Hume. But he was struck by how dangerous the road was," Mr Frazer said.


"He came back and said that we needed to do something about road safety, to do something positive to help other people."


And so they did, starting with a petition calling for the dangerous stretch of road to be urgently fixed, which gained 23,000 signatures and was ultimately successful, and eventually leading to the formation of a road safety lobby group.

Safer Australian Roads and Highways, with the perfect acronym of SARAH, is fighting for a "slow down, move over" law requiring motorists to reduce their speed when passing a broken down vehicle.


New South Wales recently introduced a reform like that for emergency vehicles, which Mr Frazer benefits from as a rural firefighter.


"But they've excluded tow truck drivers and roadside assistance vehicles," he said.


"Figures from the NRMA show there are 1.8 million breakdowns in New South Wales alone every year now. It's an enormous amount.


"We don't want someone to be killed in those preventable circumstances, as was the case with my beautiful daughter Sarah. She was terrified when trucks and cars were flying by at 100 kilometres per hour and of course she was killed."


Sarah would have turned 30 in September. Mr Frazer often wonders what kind of person she would have become, what photographs she might have taken in exotic and far-flung locations.


He imagines her sitting around the table at the family's home in the Blue Mountains each Saturday night when he, his wife Judy and Sarah's four siblings catch up for dinner.


"On the day of her funeral, I tied a yellow ribbon on to the aerial of our car," he said. "Yellow was her favourite colour.

"Now the yellow ribbon has become the national symbol of road safety and I see it everywhere I go around Australia. I have one tied on the bag I take with me as I travel all over the place, just like Sarah once did, and I feel like she's with me."


The distracted truck driver was convicted and jailed. Mr Frazer said he has forgiven him as a person, but not what he did and the enormous consequences that resulted.



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