For almost 20 years, Brian Farnsworth has been a driver-reviver volunteer in Harden, in the South West Slopes of NSW, encouraging travellers to take a break and reach their destination safely.
Along with his wife, Dorothy, Brian has spent countless hours chatting to motorists and handing out free cups of tea and coffee at the Harden Driver Reviver rest stop in a personal bid to prevent accidents during busy holiday periods.
“If I can get just one person to stop in the 10 hours we’re open, then maybe I’ve saved their life,” he says.
As a long-time SES member, Brian knows the cost of driving long distances without stopping. Driver fatigue is one of the three main killers on NSW roads and can be as deadly to motorists as speeding or drink-driving.
“I grew up in an ambulance service,” he says. “My old man had been to a lot of accidents. I’ve seen what happens through fatigue.”
Brian enjoys talking to people who stop at the driver reviver site in the centre of Harden on Burley Griffin Way, about 65 kilometres northwest of Yass. Everyone from weary solo travellers to fractious family groups and overseas tourists receives a hearty welcome once they step through the door.
“Straight away I’ll say, ‘How’s things going? Can we get you a cup of tea, coffee or whatever?’,” he says. “And then you just start talking to them and try to keep them there for as long as possible.
“A lot of the young ones that come in, they just want a cup of coffee and then go. As far as I’m concerned, I try to ‘disorganise’ that part of it and keep them there for a while. Even if it’s only 10 minutes, it’s a break. That’s all I want from them.
“You’ve got to be able to convince the people that we’re there to help them.”
Harden’s driver-reviver volunteers aren’t short on passion. Assisted by community-minded people of all ages, Brian says he’s particularly grateful to an ever-eager team of elderly locals who volunteer regularly.
“The oldest one is about 92 and you can’t keep her out of the place,” he says. “She’s always asking, ‘When is it my turn?’They just love meeting the people who come in.”
Brian says one family have been regulars at the driver-reviver site for 18 years. He recalls the excitable arrivals of the two children during holiday seasons.
“They would run in and get a cup of cordial,” says Brian. “When they’d finished that cup of cordial, they’d get a pen and write their name on the cup and say, ‘Can you keep this cup until the next time?’
“We had blokes from Canada once. They flew into Perth, got in a car and headed to Sydney. They didn’t think it was so far away.
“Yeah, you meet some funny people there.”