Rock throwing epidemic leaves drivers fearing for lives
SMASHED doors, shattered windscreens and near misses continue to be all part of the job for many drivers headed out west through a number of regional towns.
This epidemic isn't one that is just restricted to the streets of a single centre, year, or culprit, instead it is a problem that has plagued drivers from Alice Springs to Dubbo and even Moree for some time.
For Michelle Franklin it became personal when her husband was attacked while headed out of Moree earlier this month.
His truck windscreen smashed, and side door damaged by a rock resembling the size of a fist.
The damages, like any when you're in this industry, are something you don't have time for, let alone want to pay.
Like any protective wife Michelle sought answers only to discover the issue was far more complicated than an airborne stone.
"I spoke to police to find out what is being done and who is footing the bill," she said.
"It seemed like we couldn't do anything about it, can't blame anyone because no one was caught so the issue goes away.
Sonja White and her partner Craig similarly were rocked in Brewarrina a few weeks ago.
On contacting Michelle the pair began a Facebook group for drivers to report rock throwing and share their stories, solution and the contact they have had with the powers that be.
"We don't need another death from stupidity, we all have families to go home to so I want to see what we are doing about it," Sonja said."I want to see some changes for our safety and I would like to know what they are going to do about this."
For Andrew Myers it was a similar tale as he was headed through the Moree Bypass in the early hours of the morning last year.
The rock seemingly destined for his cab was lobbed directly through his windscreen, striking him on the head and forcing him to pull up suddenly.
Andrew was driving with his 18-year-old son at the time.
"When you drive with your family you make sure they are safe, they are the people you cherish the most," Andrew said.
"This one shook me."
"When they got me I was driving on a two lane road, I run onto the lane opposite me who knows what would have happened," he said.
Drivers Neil Kerr was hit in Dubbo last year and sustained shards of glass to his neck.
Driver Stephen McAlister also had similar stories to share when he was hit in November.
According to the NSW Bureau of Crime statistics 48 people across NSW have been charged for throwing objects at vehicles since April 2016, a majority of those convicted were under 18.
So, while the issue is wide spread the case study for Moree is a perfect example of why this situation has not yet been solved.
Drowning in red tape the local council seemingly have the funds but continue to wait while the cogs turn, much to the frustration of Moree Plains Shire Mayor Katrina Humphries.
For the mayor the issue has struck a chord, so much so like many others in the Moree community she patrols the area and gets in touch with anyone concerned.
"The situation is awful in my point of view, Moree isnt the only place but we know things need to be done," she said.
"We are embarrassed by it get on with lives and get on with work, totally unacceptable bad behaviour.
"My big fear is it will connect with someone, ending in disaster."
The council pushing the issue had recently been granted close to $100,000 by the Roads and Maritime services for CCTV cameras in the area of concern.
However that was announced last year, and nothing concrete is in place.
"Why it has taken so long I don't know," she said exasperated.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation has also become involved, working with Moree Council, Roads and Maritime Services, local school representatives, Moree Police and Moree Aboriginal Residential Rehabilitation Service in an attempt to eliminate hiding spots and assist police with visual surveillance when on patrols.
The ARTC has purchased custom-made vandal-proof solar lights, which will illuminate the fence on the eastern side and have the ability for CCTV cameras to be attached.
The addition is expected to be installed in the coming weeks.
But Moree is just one town on one highway, hoping to find an answer.
Until a solution to stop the attacks before they begin is found, police will continue to convict, community groups continue to patrol, drivers will continue to remain vigilant and the wheel of bureaucracy will roll on at a rusty pace.