Highway blackspot drives grief home
By MEGAN KINNINMENT
EVERY time Grace and Allan Wilton, of Coorabell, drive to shop at Bangalow, or to Byron Bay, they risk their lives.
Last Saturday, a 47-year-old Bangalow man, whom police have identified as Robin Robinson, was killed when he turned right off the Pacific Highway into Coolamon Scenic Drive and crashed into an oncoming car.
Mr Robinson's death is one too many for the Wiltons. After 34 years navigating the notorious St Helena blackspot, and having survived several dangerous accidents turning into and out of Coolamon Scenic Drive, they are calling on the RTA to take urgent action.
They want the speed limit lowered from 100km to 70km along the deadly St Helena stretch of highway.
While the RTA yesterday would not respond to the call to lower speed-limits, studies are underway to upgrade the Pacific Highway from Ewingsdale to Tintenbar.
But those plans are too far away to reassure the Wiltons.
"I've had that many close encounters, it's getting out of control," Mr Wilton said.
"I experienced a real scare only six months ago, when I was heading down to Byron Bay.
"My car was clipped by another just after I pulled out onto the highway, and I'm very careful.
"I tell all of our visitors to please be careful turning onto that highway. If you're too slow, you're cactus."
Grace Wilton nods in agreement:
"There's not a week goes by when we don't hear a car screeching along the highway," she said.
"Every time there's an accident, we hear the engines, the sirens. I can't even look at the highway anymore."
Backing the Wilton's call yesterday to make the highway safer was Ewingsdale resident, Rikki Grinberg.
"Every community member who lives in this area knows someone who has been injured or died at St Helena," Ms Grinberg said.
Ms Grinberg criticised a statement from Byron Bay police that St Helena was not considered a blackspot.
"St Helena is considered the worst blackspot in NSW by the RTA," she said.
"Please just add up the number of deaths and accidents in that one kilometre stretch, and it will clearly illustrate to you what a huge problem this is for our community."
Inspector Owen King, of Byron Bay police, yesterday clarified his position on St Helea:
"While that particular corner (where Saturday's fatal accident occurred) is not a designated black spot, the St Helena area itself is considered a blackspot by the RTA and that is why we have regular highway patrols in that area," he said.
"There's been a number of serious and fatal accidents at St Helena over the past few years."