Horror stats reveal desperate need for D'Aguilar Hwy upgrade
THE ROAD runs red in Queensland's southeast. Between 2001 and 2018, 22 lives were lost on the D'Aguilar Highway between Kingaroy and Kilcoy, one of the state's most treacherous lengths of road.
With narrow winding lanes and few spots where drivers can safely overtake, this nightmarish highway has witnessed hundreds of tragic, and oftentimes, very permanent scenes.
So far this year, the stretch of highway between Kilcoy and Kingaroy has claimed three lives.
Beloved optometrist Malcolm Lee See was tragically killed when his car struck a tree near Moore in late June, and juust over a week later, a 51-year-old Nanango woman was also killed in a head on crash on the highway.
And in February, an 85-year-old Wattle Camp man lost his life in a collision at the intersection of the D'Aguilar and the Brisbane Valley Highway at Harlin.
In 2018, a 19-year-old man was killed after the car he was driving crashed into a tree on the highway at Nanango.
In 2015, one man was killed and another injured after a fuel tanker rolled over on the D'Aguilar Highway near Kilcoy.
The RACQ Unroadworthy Roads Survey 2018, which received 1643 total responses and highlighted 607 different unroadworthy roads throughout Queensland, revealed the D'Aguilar Highway was one of the states top 10 most dangerous roads. Respondents identified that "the road is in very poor condition, rough, pot holed and not up to standard. It is a very busy corridor carrying a significant number of heavy vehicles with very few overtaking opportunities".
RACQ Head of Public Policy Rebecca Michael said an analysis of crash history and data from the Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) the highway between Caboolture and Kingaroy had received a disappointing two-star safety rating, as well as a medium-high to high crash risk.
"The D'Aguilar Highway claimed 14 lives and put 211 other people in hospital with serious injuries between 2012 and 2016," Dr Michael said.
"Our research shows these deadly crashes happen when drivers, run off the road, crash head-on, or collide with other vehicles at intersections."
While a number of causes have been identified, Dr Michael said the risk could be reduced with low-cost, high impact safety works.
"Simple measures like clearing roadsides, installing safety barriers and noisy lines will go a long way to reducing the risk of crashes. Additionally, if protected turning lanes are installed at intersections, more fatal and serious injuries will be prevented," she said.
The South Burnett Times analysed data from the department of main roads, and made a shocking discovery of just how many crashes were listed as 'head-on'.
Between January 2000 and December 2018, the section of the highway between Kilcoy and Kingaroy has seen 779 incidents. Of these:
- 249 required hospitalisation and 22 were fatal.
- 69 incidents were described as 'head-on' - making up just 8.9 per cent of incidents
- Despite this, 35 of these head-on crashes, or more than 50 per cent, required hospitalisation or were fatal.
- 10 fatalities were listed as head on - meaning someone lost their life in 14 per cent of all head-on incidents
- Of the total number of fatalities during this period, 45% were head-on collisions.
According to a Transport and Main Roads spokeswoman, "every death or serious injury is one too many". TMR have allocated $24.5 million towards safety improvements on the 24-kilometre section between Nanango and Kingaroy.
"This will include intersection upgrades, roadside improvements and hazard removal, new signs and the installation of audio-tactile line marking."
"We will also introduce wide centre lines to provide greater separation between vehicles and significantly reduce the crash risk."
"Everyone has a role to play in road safety and motorists are reminded to stick to the speed limits, abide by the road rules and drive to conditions."
With the 'fatal five' continuing to be the leading cause of deaths on our roads, TMR warned motorists to take them seriously.
According to Kingaroy Police officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant David Tierney, the deadly history of the D'Aguilar Highway can largely be attributed to people not driving to the conditions of the road, rather then the road itself.
While overtaking lanes may assist, impatience and distracted drivers are largely to blame.
"People (are) not driving to the conditions. A lot of the ones I know of are speed related, or people have lost control because they're distracted," Sen Sgt Tierny said.
"It's a windy bit of road, with not a lot of overtaking places, and people get impatient and take the wrong option."
This means that people are being injured and killed in crashes that otherwise would have been less severe, or avoided completely, if road rules had been obeyed.
"People have left the road because of the speed they were driving at. Overtaking lanes may help, but driver attitudes are the main problem," he said.
According to Senior Sergeant Tierney, the persistent use of mobile phones while driving has also served to take and endanger lives.
Statistics released by the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) revealed the loss of 21 lives of Queensland roads due to distracted drivers last year, with an additional 1473 being seriously injured.
If you're travelling at the 100km/hr speed limit along the D'Aguilar Highway and take your eyes off the road for just two seconds, your vehicle will travel 55 and a half metres. Combined with winding roads and frequent overtaking, this is a recipe for disaster.
LNP Leader and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington said the "tragedies on the D'Aguilar Highway have been devastating for the South Burnett community".
"I have long campaigned for investment in better local road infrastructure because I understand how important it is to the South Burnett community," Ms Frecklington said.
"Through my advocacy, new overtaking lanes have been built between Yarraman and Nanango and between Nanango and Kingaroy."
Evident in a petition started by the LNP to resurface the southern section of the highway, which gained the support of 600 locals, Ms Frecklington said the LNP considers the D'Aguilar Highway priority.
"My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved ones," she said.