TOP Program Helps

Blacktown City Guardian - 24th January 2003

When you've seen as many motor vehicle accidents as Ambulance Officer Graham Symes, you begin to realise just how bad the situation is on our roads when it comes to young drivers.

The amount of accidents and deaths he saw weekly prompted Symes to set up an innovative program aimed at rehabilitating young drivers.

He founded the Traffic Offenders Program (TOP) in 1992, and funded it himself for six years before David Bamford from Blacktown City Rotary Club came on board as Honorary Chairman and provided financial assistance through fundraising.

Since then rising costs have threatened the future of the successful program, but now Blacktown RSL has thrown it a lifeline by giving TOP a $20,000 grant.

The program involves offending drivers going through a lengthy series of lectures from members of the police force, paramedics, RTA representatives and Spinal Cord injury specialists.

"The initial reason people come to the program is to get a lighter sentence, and I don't mind that, but after a few weeks they begin to really get into it and start to understand what can happen on the roads," says Symes.

Symes believes that young drivers hit the roads today with a lack of education on its dangers, and says a review of the licensing procedure is required.

"A program like this should be compulsory before drivers are given their licence, in fact in many overseas countries it is.

"Kids are often uneducated, they go onto the road thinking a 0.02 Blood Alcohol Limit means they can still have one or two drinks, when in reality that limit is there for medical purposes."

Referrals to the program are made form magistrates from 47 courts across western Sydney, and are on a range of offences including drink driving and speeding, as well as unregistered and unlicensed driving.