A grieving father hopes people who drink and drive might spare a thought for those, like him, who have been called to a mortuary to identify their children lying lifeless.

Duncan Wakes-Miller is still in shock over the death of his 17-year-old son Barney and spends his days searching for ways to stop other mums and dads from feeling his pain. 

"Imagine how it feels to you when you see your child who has died of horrific head injuries sustained in the crash and it's difficult to recognise them," Mr Wakes-Miller told The Saturday Telegraph. 

"Imagine advising your wife that they probably shouldn't view the body for this reason. Imagine when you hear that he was an innocent passenger in a car?

"This is a snippet of what it feels like to lose someone to an insidious act." 

Barney, a Year 11 student at St Augustine's in Brookvale, died when the car he was a passenger in slammed into a sandstone and wrought iron fence at Elanora Heights in July last year. 

Bella and Duncan Wakes-Miller’s son Barney was killed when he was a passenger in a car in July, 2020. Picture: Tim Hunter
Bella and Duncan Wakes-Miller’s son Barney was killed when he was a passenger in a car in July, 2020. Picture: Tim Hunter

He was sitting in the back seat of the Holden Commodore and died from head injuries. The driver, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital for mandatory blood tests.

The other passengers - three 17-year-old boys and a 16-year-old girl - were also taken to hospital to be checked as a precaution. The driver has been charged with seven offences and the case is still before the courts. 

The teenage P-plate driver is facing charges in Children's Court including mid-range drink driving; dangerous driving occasioning death; negligent driving occasioning death; driving with more than one passenger under 18 years of age after 11pm; driving with four unrestrained passengers; sustained loss of traction and; driving in dangerous manner dangerous. No pleas have been entered. 

Mr Wakes-Miller says his "daily nightmare" has prompted him to fight for change. 

He was drawn to The Saturday Telegraph's call for a rethink of road safety rules, laws and practices after trauma surgeon Valerie Malka spoke out after years of seeing the horrific result of car crashes

Barney Wakes-Miller, 17, died in a car crash at Elanora Heights.
Barney Wakes-Miller, 17, died in a car crash at Elanora Heights.

Dr Malka, worked frantically for 11 hours in vain to try and save another teenage boy hit by a van on January 7, said it was time to get tougher on individuals who get behind the wheel drunk or drugged. 

Mr Wakes-Miller said he wanted to go a step further and call for specific changes that can happen now.

"I don't want to be a parent victim of what has happened to our family, I want to accelerate the successful adoption of technology that can prevent human error on Australian roads. I'm looking for people who can help make this happen," he said. 

"We can all call for offenders to be punished and go hard on them, but it gets lost in the noise. To stop road killers I have five ideas that can happen now." 

Mr Wakes-Miller wants vehicle black boxes to be mandatory for all provisional drivers or drivers under the age of 25 years as part of licence regulations.

"Data from the black box and dashcams could remove all and any reasonable doubt for crash investigators," he said. 

"People doing burnouts would see their car simply switch off or go into a safe mode. Potentially, any passengers unrestrained in seat belts would prevent the ignition working." 

The scene of Barney’s fatal crash at Elanora Heights. Picture: David Swift
The scene of Barney’s fatal crash at Elanora Heights. Picture: David Swift

He called for more insurers to consider insurance which matched motorists with personalised premiums according to their driving performance - a black box meant drivers could be rewarded with cheaper premiums the cleaner their record. 

He also called for the creation of rules and automated alerts designed to facilitate and encourage driver accountability via telematic data from in-car systems.

"Learned driver behaviour is a serious issue and is often overlooked. Speeding, braking suddenly for example. Or even alerts if you have been driving for dangerously too long," Mr he said.

 

 

Mr Wakes-Miller said alcohol and drug breathalysers should be installed in all cars driven by provisional licence holders and all drivers convicted of DUI. And speed control systems should be installed in all new cars.

"I am no expert on technology around road safety but what I do know for certain is that technology capability exists right now that could have helped save Barney's life."

Mr Wakes-Miller's suggestions can be seen on his new website thenewroadtosafety.com

Originally published as 'Stop road killers': Grieving parents fight for change



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