Fifty (50 ) – this number represents the devastating holiday road toll from the 2011-2012 Christmas period – an increase of 13 more fatalities from the year  before  - a shocking statistic which leaves countless families without a wife, husband, daughter, son, brother or sister to celebrate with this Christmas.

This holiday season - when roads across the entire country are filled with festive families and holiday makers - leading advocates from the CARMA road safety initiative are imploring drivers to take responsibility for this year’s road toll, to drive safely and with caution, and unite in a national call to action to prevent any more families from losing loved ones on the roads at Christmas time.

Russell White, leading road safety campaigner and co-founder of the CARMA call to action said that most traffic incidents are preventable and happen because people simply fail to drive safely.

“Our aim this holiday season is not to preach the road rules, but rather to create awareness of the increased risks on our roads at Christmas time and ultimately change behaviours.

“As always, the Christmas and New Year periods see an surge in traffic volumes, an increase in congestion, tired and weary drivers and unfortunately, higher numbers or people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“While we can’t control many of these external factors, what we can do is drive with greater alertness, caution and courtesy – remember to share the roads with others, allow increased travel time and schedule frequent breaks to help all drivers remain safe during these high-pressure periods,” he adds.

Road Trauma Services Queensland team member resident Phil Barry who lost his son James in a tragic, yet preventable car crash the day after Boxing Day in 2002, joins White and the CARMA initiative in pleading with drivers to travel with heightened caution and patience over the holiday period – and every day.

“Ten years ago my life was changed forever when my son James didn’t make it to a family Christmas gathering. Sadly, the circumstances surrounding his death could have easily been prevented with repercussions extending far beyond our own families sorrow.

“From the bottom of my heart, when behind the wheel this Christmas, I urge all drivers to avoid distraction and just focus on driving. Don’t change CDs, don’t text or talk on the phone and especially don’t drink and drive.  Above all, be patient and drive to conditions,” he says.

Russell Ingall, champion V8 Supercar driver and CARMA spokesperson adds that it doesn’t take a professional to drive smartly nor safely on our roads.

“I’m constantly shocked by some of the reckless and downright dangerous behaviour I see on the roads every single day – all of which is heightened as more traffic hits the road over the holiday period.”

“It’s not enough to slow down simply because there’s a speed camera ahead. This Christmas, I urge all drivers to take responsibility for creating safer roads and to do their part in reducing the national road toll. One life lost, is one too many,” he adds.

As the first step to creating safer roads across the country, White and Ingall encourage all drivers to consider the CARMA Christmas Checklist before taking to the roads this holiday season.

1.    Follow the leader… from a safe distance. Be sure to leave enough space between you and the car ahead. A significant number of accidents occur because drivers did not have enough time to react to sudden stops or turns.

2.    No need for speed. Sounds obvious enough but with Aussies accruing hundreds of millions of dollars in fines each year   and thousands dying on our roads, it’s clear that we’re still speeding - at any cost.

3.    Put the phone down. The most dangerous drivers are distracted drivers. Whether you’re talking, texting or changing the tunes, being distracted for a split second could have much more grave consequences than missing a phone call.

4.    It’s safe to assume the worst of people. Driving is one scenario when you need to be prepared for everyone else to act like idiots. Other drivers may speed, tailgate, and change lanes without signalling, so always expect the unexpected.

5.    Take a break. If you’re tired, pull over and rest. There are great Stop Revive Survive stations all along major drive routes that offer free coffee and biscuits. Remember forty winks may prevent a fatality.

White adds that an increased Police presence and associated penalties during the Christmas period was an important initiative to keep Australians alive.

“All you have to do is speak to one of the 360 families who’ve lost loved ones in Christmas road accidents over the past five years, to understand that additional enforcement, road safety and re-education is vital to help reduce preventable fatalities. 

“Adhering to the CARMA Christmas Checklist is an important step, but I also encourage drivers to take road safety to the next gear by jumping onto the CARMA website to test their driving knowledge - you might be surprise by the results,” he says.