Bernard Carlon, executive director of the NSW Centre for Road Safety, said 291 people had died on NSW roads this year, which was 54 fewer deaths than last year.
“However in Sydney there’s been no reduction in the number of people who have been killed on our roads,” he said.
Fatalities have involved vulnerable users in particular, with 48 pedestrian and 14 cyclist deaths in urban areas.
“We want to focus in the Christmas period not just about the long trips, but also focus on the urban areas where people are getting around locally, out enjoying themselves, children are around familiar areas where they’re holidaying,” Mr Carlon said.
“And we want people to take particular care for those vulnerable road users, bicycle riders and pedestrians, because we’ve seen no decrease this year in tragically the fatalities impacting those vulnerable road users.”
Police Minister David Elliott said the statistics were ironic considering there had been a reduction in motorists on roads this year, particularly during coronavirus lockdowns in March and April.
“The fact that we haven’t seen a comparative reduction in road fatalities is quite sad. That says to me that people aren’t taking heed of the many messages [that have been rolled out for a decade],” he said.
Mr Elliott said he was concerned the stresses of this year and the added layer of public health legislation would lead to risky behaviour.
“I [am] concerned that people who are doing the wrong thing will try to run the gauntlet, and police will have to be very very vigilant when it comes to making sure there’s compliance with the public health orders,” he said.
“They’ll be very, very vigilant up on the northern beaches regardless of what decisions are made over the next couple of hours.
“I’m also concerned that people will have higher levels of anxiety because of the pressure they’ve lived under for the last nine or 10 months, and even longer when you get to those bushfire affected communities.”
Ms Webb said the message to drivers was the same: take time, plan ahead and abide by the road rules. “We want people to get to their destination safely so we ask that they give themselves plenty of time.”
She said police were also launching a campaign around dangerous, distracted, drunk and drug-affected driving.
“COVID has changed the operating environment, [there are] certainly restrictions in some places and officers have other duties, but we’re not stopping RBT [Random Breath Test], it will be continued, as will highway patrols.”
Double demerits will be in place for speeding, seatbelt, mobile phone and motorcycle helmet offences from 12.01am, Thursday December 24, until 11.59pm on Sunday, January 3.
Natassia is the education reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.