The life-saving road safety work of Northern Beaches couple Allan and Rhonda McCormac has been recognised by national awards named in their honour.
The Allan McCormac Award was presented to Innisfail Driver Reviver which, despite many obstacles, has remained open and operating for more than 20 years.
To be given annually, it will be awarded to a Driver Reviver site which best seeks solutions to challenges or overcomes adversity or acts above and beyond service requirements.
The Rhonda McCormac Award will be awarded to a Driver Reviver site which best supports its local community with acts of service above and beyond, creatively adds value to their site and/or loyally and passionately works behind the scenes to ensure the site operates effectively.
Colac Driver Reviver received the 2023 award for its loyalty in managing the site for more than 30 years.
National Driver Reviver program manager Kerrie Edwards said: ``We hope these awards will not only recognise the invaluable contribution made by the loyal, passionate, hardworking volunteers but also acknowledge the significant role Allan and Rhonda played in establishing and running this important road safety campaign for nearly four decades.’’
The Driver Reviver program was founded in 1989 by Mr McCormac, a marketing agency co-owner, who organised corporate sponsorship and a network for several existing independent venues in NSW.
The program was ideal for his client at the time, Nestle, which sought a community service program to support through its KitKat brand.
The memorable ``Have a break, have a KitKat’’ slogan encouraged drivers to pull over for refreshments at designated stops throughout the country.
``What we did was fairly cheeky: we took out full page ads in the Sunday papers in Melbourne and Brisbane and said: `If you're traveling in New South Wales over this Easter , call in and have a free cup of coffee and a KitKat at a Driver Reviver site operated by volunteers’.
``As soon as that went out, Queensland and then Victoria started taking notice.’’
The program now includes more than 180 sites and more than 5000 volunteers.
In the 30 years they ran Driver Reviver, the McCormacs ensured the program operated ``any way we could‘’ – fundraising and advocating to government and corporate sponsors to personal cash injections.
In the early days, the couple hand packed trucks with coffee, tea and biscuits, cups, stirrers and sugar, until sponsors (and forklifts and drivers) were found.
Allan and Rhonda McCormac officially retired in 2022 and the registered charity Driver Reviver Australia Ltd is now operated by an independent board of directors and one full time staff member under the auspices of the Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES).
The program is delivered entirely by volunteer organisations including Lions, SES, Rotary, councils, church groups, CWA, Visitor Information Centres, Men’s Sheds, VRA, police and community groups.
Sponsors for the program include long-term in-kind companies Bushells Tea, Bushells Coffee, Sunshine Sugar and The Arnott’s Foundation. It is further supported by community sponsor AAMI and distribution sponsor SHELL.
``I saw it as more than road safety because the state governments are in charge of that,’’ Mr McCormac said.
``I didn't initiate any programs or activities that weren't approved or done in conjunction with the state government road safety authorities.
``I saw my role as facilitating a program where the volunteers (the most critical component of all), the state governments and sponsors all worked in one direction.’’
The McCormac’s became close to many volunteers during the years.
``A lot of our volunteers are also first responders who have witnessed accidents firsthand, but through Driver Reviver they get to meet people not in a crash situation and even save their lives.’’
One man told him the reason he became a volunteer was because his parents had stopped at Driver Reviver sites when he was a child.
``The number of times volunteers tell you that people would arrive at their site with their eyes hanging out of their heads and say they had just driven 10 or 12 hours straight, often with their husband or wife in the car and little kids on the back seat is sobering.’’
``I couldn't have wished for anybody better’’ to hand the program over to VICSES, which would continue to evolve the program through eras of new technology such as electric and driverless vehicles as well as conduct crucial community engagement.
``It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a country to run a network of safe roads and safe drivers.’’
Mr McCormac urged the states to work together on consistent road laws and safety activities, which would help lower the national road toll further.
He cited the example of the first electric vehicles, each with a symbol on the number plate so that first responders at crashes could identify them as electric – all with a different state design and colour.
``Ninety per cent of fatalities are caused by human error, and humans make mistakes when there's no consistency in the rules.
``Driver Reviver volunteers understand that because they're meeting people from all over the country.’’
Naming awards after the couple was ``a total surprise’’, and Mr McCormac was delighted that Rhonda had been recognised as a linchpin of the organisation for more than 20 years.
``I couldn't have done it on my own.’’
``Obviously I'm the face of everything’’, but Mrs McCormac had worked in the background and engaged equally with volunteers.
Meanwhile, driver fatigue is one of the biggest causes of road fatalities.
Fatigue-related crashes are almost three times as likely to be fatal than crashes not involvingfatigue.There were 1194 fatalities on Australian roads in 2022.
More than 25 million free teas and coffees and 28 million snacks have been served to drivers and their passengers since 1990.
Details about the 187 Driver Reviver site locations and operating hours can be viewed at www.driverreviver.com.au.
TIPS FROM DRIVER REVIVER
Begin long trips well rested
Share the driving where possib
Avoid driving when you would usually be sleeping
Most crucially, take a 15-minute break from driving every 2 hours
STATS & FIGURES (Transport Accident Commission)
If you fall asleep for just four seconds while travelling at 100 km/h, the car will have gone 111m without you being in control
After being awake for 17 hours you will be impaired to the same level as someone with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05
Fatigue isn’t only an issue on long distance drives, it is still a risk for short drives
People generally don't become fatigued from driving. Usually, they are already tired from long hours, shift work, lack of sleep, sleep apnoea or physically demanding roles