The rate of road deaths in the Territory has eclipsed every other part of Australia for more than 30 years. And it showed no sign of slowing in 2018, with road users in the NT dying at four times the rate of those across the rest of the country.
In the final days of 2018 the Northern Territory’s police media feed ran like a bloody, tragic horror film reel, with a body count stacking up.
December 17: Single vehicle rollover, Larrimah. Male occupant deceased.
December 21: Single vehicle crash, North East Arnhem Land. Female, 23, killed as a result.
Christmas Eve, December 24: Remote area fatal crash, Groote Eylandt. Female, 25, dead.
The NT crashed into the new year with a final road toll of 50 deaths for 2018, making it, per capita, the deadliest patch in Australia.
But these statistics dilute the sheer tragedy of each lost life they represent.
Today the ABC has sought to look beyond the toll and speak to the families, survivors and communities left reeling, and ask the question: what more can be done?
NT road fatalities: January to November
50: Deaths on NT roads in 2018
Behind any roadside crucifix stands a powerful story of human loss.
Antony Vanderwey was a widely beloved, long-term teacher at Darwin Middle School when he died in April.
He grew up in Sydney and lived in Malaysia, Europe, Townsville, Toowoomba, Palmerston and Boondooma, population 76, during his 65 years.
“Tony brought the world to his classrooms,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner told Parliament when he paid tribute to him in May.
His daughters, Alice and Hilary, speak of a father who regaled them with stories of his many lives.
In the early 2000s, armed with a new degree, he became a teacher at age 50, at Taminmin College in Humpty Doo.
He took up a post as a home economics teacher at Darwin Middle School in 2007, and his lifelong passion for cooking made him that rare teacher who made students want to go to school.
His daughters would visit, usually around Easter, and late in March Mr Vanderwey left a voicemail on Alice’s phone: what did she want to eat during her upcoming stay?
A curry? Pasta? Paella?
Days later, they were driving towards the exit of Kakadu National Park via Pine Creek.
Hilary Vanderwey was on a boat between the Solomon Islands, where she lives, when she received the news that would change her life.
As she drifted back into reception, her phone lit up.
“Nobody was saying what happened, but I was getting all these messages saying, ‘call us, call us, call us’,” she recalls.
What happened would remain a mystery — Alice, the only passenger in Mr Vanderwey’s car, was sleeping at the time of the accident.
But the vehicle rolled, and Mr Vanderwey became the 16th person to die on Territory roads this year.
In Darwin’s close-knit community, the ripple effects of his death were tidal.
“When I finished up at middle school he would come and see me at my work just to see how I was going,” one former student wrote on social media.
“My son is in his class and I cannot convey, as a parent, how much this man will be missed within the education profession,” another comment read.
Left to make sense of his death, Mr Vanderwey’s daughters say they’ve struggled to reconcile the fact that a life so well-lived could come to such a sudden end.
As the NT road toll reached its equal worst figure since 2010, police urged people to remember tragedies like this one had been multiplied.
“We need to really be focusing on the fact that that number … actually represents a life,” said Sergeant Angela Stringer, Officer in Charge of Darwin Traffic Operations.
“We can talk about numbers and statistics, but what it actually amounts to is that’s potentially  families that have lost somebody.”
541: Serious road injuries every year
Headlights came roaring into Tom Berry’s rear vision mirror as he was thanking his lucky stars.
Moments earlier, on a clear night in November, the St John Ambulance employee had driven past emergency services at a car crash in Palmerston.
As he pulled up at the next red light, he was thinking how fortunate he was to have never been in one — “touch wood”.
“No sooner did I have the thought, then I seen the lights, and bang,” he said.
“Before I knew it I was just halfway out in the intersection.”
There was no oncoming traffic as Mr Berry sat, exposed in his rear-ended, written-off car and the same ambulance that had just been at the other crash whisked him off to hospital.
His injuries were deemed minor, but his life has since been upended.
Shooting pains up his back and neck from nerve damage forced him to quit his second job as an usher, as he can’t stand for more than an hour.
Recently, his doctor told him to get an MRI, as he’s losing sensation in his feet.
Then there’s the psychological damage — anxiety whenever he’s behind the wheel, difficulty sleeping and flashbacks that pepper his vision at every traffic light, of unstopping headlights and the slam of impact.
Mr Berry, who once spent his last $200 on a plane ticket to Darwin and after 10 years, has graduated from the Youth Shack Hostel to owning his own home, now fears for his life in his adopted city.
If it wasn’t for his mortgage, he’d leave.
Mr Berry speaks to the ABC at an outdoor table at a cafe, on a rainy afternoon a week before Christmas, as the Parap markets wind down a block away.
Three times in half an hour, screeching brakes interrupt the interview.
“There’s potentially been three accidents,” Mr Berry says.
Each year a sizable section of the Territory’s tiny population — 541 people — are seriously injured or require hospitalisation because of crashes on NT roads.
Mr Berry believes one of the main problems is the attitude of Territory drivers, particularly what he describes as the “I must be in front of you” mentality.
He said a motorist had once spat on his windows when stopped at a red light, because he’d been unable to let him overtake when a merge lane ended.
There’s also the hooning, the obsession with driving at least 130km/h on every stretch of straight road, and the reluctance to use indicators.
“I just don’t feel safe on roads in the Territory,” Mr Berry says.
27: Indigenous deaths on NT roads in 2018
The Darwin bottleshop had just opened and Ms Rogers, 42, was stinging for a drink.
It was February 22, 2018.
Her husband James ‘Koome’ Lee walked in and bought a bottle of Jack Daniel’s for his spouse and a 700mL bottle of Bundaberg for himself.
The pair were sorted for the afternoon.
Hours later, the sun was falling behind the clouds in Darwin’s Minmarama community, and Ms Rogers — whose first name cannot be said due to cultural protocol — had nearly drained her bottle of spirits.
Mother-of-two Ms Rogers wasn’t great with her liquor, Mr Lee says, as she was usually based in her remote hometown of Ngukurr where booze was harder to come by.
The pair had started arguing.
Mr Lee remembers a conflict about other women.
“She was really intoxicated … I was trying to tell her, you’ve got to stop drinking every day,” he says.
Soon, the situation turned into total turmoil.
Ms Rogers was distraught and wildly inebriated.
The fight had escalated — badly — then she started bolting towards the road.
“I seen her running straight for the bus, and I said, ‘no, no, no, don’t do that!'” Mr Lee reflects grimly.
“I couldn’t actually reach her from chasing her.
“It was too late.”
Ms Rogers was run down and killed by a minibus on the central Darwin thoroughfare of Dick Ward Drive.
A “talented, beautiful, precious lady”, as Mr Lee put it, was taken too soon, leaving a grieving family back in Ngukurr.
“Every time when I go to sleep I pray to her, and I pray to myself, and I say to her … please, help me look after these two kids,” Mr Lee says between tears.
“It hurts me a lot actually talking about it.
“She was like a person that … you love your wife so much in your heart.”
Ms Rogers’s death added to a list of disturbing statistics from the Territory’s 2018 road toll.
Out of the 50 killed during the year, 27 of these were Indigenous people, many of who lost their lives out on isolated outback highways.
Ms Rogers was also one of 11 pedestrians killed on Territory roads during the year, eight of whom were Indigenous.
These alarming figures have been the catalyst for the question to be asked — why is this happening?
Helen Secretary, the chairperson of Darwin-based Indigenous organisation Gwalwa Daraniki, was firm on what she believes to be a main culprit.
“It’s alcohol,” Ms Secretary says.
“Everyone that we’ve known that’s got hit, it’s alcohol related.”
Ms Secretary, who oversees the Minmarama and Kulaluk communities, says she knew of five people who had been hit on Dick Ward Drive over the years.
Her partner Mark Hopkins points his finger at the abundance of bottleshops across the main Territory towns.
“You can buy grog from anywhere, you know?” he said.
“And if they can’t buy it, someone else can buy it for them.”
NT Police’s Sergeant Conan Roberston says the huge Indigenous road toll for 2018 was a “a terrible reflection on what’s going out there”.
“Possibly some of our messages aren’t getting out to remote areas,” Sgt Robertson says.
“At the end of the day, though, everything comes back to the same story for me, and that is that most people would know what is dangerous on our roads.”
4: Times more deadly than national average in NT
Frontline responders say they’re left devastated and frustrated by avoidable deaths on the road.
Speeding, failure to wear a seatbelt, driving under the influence, distraction and fatigue are the five factors generally associated with road deaths.
The Territory’s many isolated, remote roads have also had an impact on the toll.
“Geographically, we’re challenged,” Careflight flight nurse Victoria Higgins says.
“Sometimes it can take you an hour, an hour-and-a-half to get to somebody, so potentially that person’s laying on the side of the road, in elements, waiting for you to arrive.”
In 2019, police hope to establish a new road policing command that will target hotspots, increase random breath tests at strategic times, and more.
Last financial year, the NT Government budgeted $1.6 million for road safety campaigns which, although difficult to compare with other states due to different funding schemes, is roughly more per person than most other places.
Despite this investment, NT drivers are continuing to die at a rate four times higher per capita than the rest of the nation.
What it comes back to, the police insist, is the decision not to get behind the wheel.
Beyond the immediate families are friends, workplaces, social settings — all impacted by a death, Sergeant Robertson says.
“You can just see the ripples reverberate through the entire community, whether it’s via sporting clubs or schools or other community groups,” he says.
“It doesn’t stop.
“It’s not just one death we’re talking about; it’s destruction that goes on and on.”