Horror start to new year road toll

THE NEW Year was less than three hours old when two people were killed in a head-on smash on the Pacific Hwy near Bangalow.

Emergency services personnel were called to the crash near the corner of Possum Creek Rd about 2.30am.

Lads to help before it's too late

Why crashes happen

OPINION: Road safety has improved but more training would help

Tweed Byron Local Area Command duty officer inspector Jason Dowds said the drivers, a 23-year-old man travelling north in a Ford Falcon sedan and a 34 year-old woman travelling south in a Mazda 3, died at the scene.

"One vehicle which was travelling north has crossed onto the incorrect side of the road and collided head-on with the other vehicle which was travelling south," Insp Dowds said.

"We understand both the man and the woman were from Ballina."

Insp Dowds said police established a crime scene while officers from the Northern Region Crash Investigation Unit tried to piece together how the tragedy unfolded.

He said early indications were that alcohol and speed were not factors in the incident.

The crash closed the southbound lanes of the highway for more than five hours and traffic flow in both directions alternated in the northbound lanes until the southbound lanes were reopened at 8.30am.

The smash, which was the third fatal collision of 2013 around the nation, brings the NSW holiday road toll to 12 and the national holiday road toll to 41.

Rob Wells
Rob Wells Jacklyn Wagner

LADS to help before it's too late

IT'S BEEN over seven years since Rob Wells lost his son Bryce in an horrific accident that claimed four young lives on Broken Head Road.

In 2007 Mr Wells and the parents of the other boys formed Southern Cross LADS (Learn About Driving Skills) and they are in the process of getting planning approval to build a driver education centre at Gundurimba.

Mr Wells said they hope to lodge the construction certificate application with Lismore Council soon and will then launch in earnest the fundraising campaign to make it happen.

"The idea of it is to educate people about these issues; thinking ahead, planning ahead, looking at road situations and making people more aware.

"It's not until they (young people) get out and start making decisions for themselves that it's too late. We need to educate them to give them the skills they need to be safe drivers and safe decision makers. If they get it wrong they can cause a lot of damage to themselves and to other road users."

Why crashes happen

ACCORDING to the Department of Roads and Maritime Services, of the 28 road fatalities in the Northern Rivers last year, speed was a factor in 50%, fatigue in 32% and alcohol in 9%.

  • Speed - The risk of a casualty crash approximately doubles with each 5kmh increase on a 60kmh speed-limited road, or with each 10kmh increase on 110kmh roads. A reduction of 5kmh in average travel speed would reduce rural casualty crashes by about 30% and urban crashes by about 25%.
  • Fatigue - Driver fatigue is particularly dangerous because one of the symptoms is a decreased ability to judge your own level of tiredness. Fatigue is more likely to be a factor in crashes in rural areas as they can involve long trips and extensive periods of continuous driving.
  • Alcohol - Drinking alcohol affects driving skills and increases the likelihood of risk-taking behaviour. You don't have to be drunk to be affected by alcohol. You might feel normal, but no one drives as well after drinking alcohol and studies show that a driver's risk of being involved in a casualty crash doubles for every increase of 0.05 above zero BAC.
A table from an Australian Bureau of Statistics report on road fatalities.
A table from an Australian Bureau of Statistics report on road fatalities.

OPINION: Road safety has improved but more training would help

ROAD safety in Australia has improved drastically over the past few decades.

Back in 1970 a total 3798 people were killed on Australian roads, which would have worked out at more than 25 deaths per 100,000 people across the nation.

By comparison, last year a total 1193 people died on Australian roads, or 5.16 people per 100,000.

Obviously, there have been significant improvements in road safety on the Northern Rivers as well, but this region remains far more dangerous to drive in than the above figures suggest.

At a rough estimate, there were something like 27 deaths on Northern Rivers roads last year. Taken across the 277,000-strong population between the Clarence Valley and the border, that translates as a death rate of 9.7 people per 100,000 Northern Rivers residents - far above the national averages.

Our winding country roads play a role in this, so too does the lack of public transport. Neither of those issues offer themselves to easy solutions, leaving driver training as the third area where the Northern Rivers can improve safety.

This is being addressed through the efforts of groups such as Southern Cross LADS, which is setting up an advanced driver training centre.

PCYC Lismore and Grafton have also been funded to run a safer drivers course for L-platers. This course is expected to reach about 40 centres in NSW and has the backing of Roads and Maritime Service.

Perhaps such training is something that would benefit all Northern Rivers drivers.

- Alex Easton



WATCH: Beach remains closed due to shark sightings

WATCH: Beach remains closed due to shark sightings

"Bait fish brings sharks"

Avengers film keeps cinemas super busy on first day

Avengers film keeps cinemas super busy on first day

The franchise's new instalment, Infinity War, open in cinemas today

Sudden closure of Lismore service station

Sudden closure of Lismore service station

The servo shut its doors this week

Local Partners