'Four deaths too many': hopes for a safer highway
IF MOTORISTS knew the horror emergency service workers faced on our roads each year, they might drive more carefully.
Stanthorpe Road Policing Unit officer in charge Sergeant Daniel O'Dea has seen his fair share of tragedy during his 11 years on the Granite Belt.
He has become well acquainted with the region's worst road dangers.
One of the biggest issues, he said, was the New England Hwy and its deadly locations, including the Southern Bypass and Accommodation Creek bridge.
Sgt O'Dea, who is involved with the Southern Downs Road Safety Advisory Committee, said the highway was a problem in its entirety.
He said more overtaking lanes, wider lanes and more safe spaces to pull over were required.
He said the SDRSAC, chaired and run by Southern Downs Regional Council, primarily assessed large-scale issues for the whole region.
The highway, where four people died in his jurisdiction alone last year, was one of the key priorities, he said.
"I know the area and I know the concerns and what needs to be looked at,” Sgt O'Dea said.
"In my whole time here, a major concern has been the New England Hwy.”
Sgt O'Dea said most serious incidents on the New England Hwy were fatigue-related, while almost all were caused by human error.
"That's where all our major crashes are,” he said.
But he said there were ways to help keep our road users safe.
In light of a tragic 2016, where one person died at the Southern Bypass, two died in the same crash at Back Creek and another lost their life on Eukey Rd, Sgt O'Dea said he was "hugely supportive” of news $830,000 would be spend by the state on the Southern Bypass.
"When it comes down to it, there's nothing wrong with that intersection,” he said.
"There's nothing obstructing your vision but people make mistakes there and make them regularly.
"It's generally the northbound turning across the highway coming into Stanthorpe. That is the problem.” He said engineering of roads could help to alleviate those risks.
"Last year, we had three (incidents) with four deaths, which is four deaths too many,” he said,
Stanthorpe resident James Beveridge said he would like to see the authorities take inspiration from Armidale in NSW, where the town is book-ended by roundabouts.
Mr Beveridge said a roundabout at the Southern Bypass would help to alleviate the dangers without "costing an arm and a leg”.
"At each end of Armidale there's a beautiful roundabout,” he said.
He said a double-laned roundabout which catered to heavy vehicles would be hugely beneficial: forcing the traffic to slow to a safe speed and dispelling the confusion on giving way.
"There's a lot of traffic here now,” he said.
Regardless of how the funds wind up being spent, Mr Beveridge welcomed the announcement works would take place at the Southern Bypass.
"I think any expenditure for safety is a step in the right direction,” he said.
Mr Beveridge was also concerned about Radiata pine trees growing near the highway north of Stanthorpe. He said they posed a hazard, as they were close to the road and has unstable root systems.
He feared strong winds could see lives lost by trees over the highway.
Minister for Main Roads, Road Safety and Ports Mark Bailey said it was not yet decided how the Southern Bypass funding would be used.