HIGHWAY DEEP DIVE: More than a dozen deaths and 130 hospitalisations have occurred along the Burnett Hwy. Pictures: Contributed
HIGHWAY DEEP DIVE: More than a dozen deaths and 130 hospitalisations have occurred along the Burnett Hwy. Pictures: Contributed

CARNAGE: Burnett Hwy’s deadly history revealed in numbers

TWO people have died this year along the notorious Burnett Highway running from Nanango through to Rockhampton, devastating communities and irreversibly changing lives forever.

Used as a gateway to several large regional hubs including Bundaberg, Gladstone and Maryborough, the 542km stretch of motorway is regularly a scene of tragedy

Queensland Road Safety week endeavours to warn drivers of the dangers while behind the wheel, with horrific accidents continuing to pile up each month.

These incidences leave the region in a state of shock and residents wondering if upgrades or improvements can repair one of the busiest highways in Queensland.

This year a 35-year-old Biloela man died after his car collided with a tree near Mundubbera on the Burnett Hwy on May 20.

The North Burnett community was shattered following the death of 23-year-old Josh Rackemann, after he crashed head on with a logging truck near Booubyjan on April 12.

Josh Rackemann in a head-on collision on the Burnett Highway, south of Ban Ban Springs on April 12, 2020. (Picture: Sam Turner)
Josh Rackemann in a head-on collision on the Burnett Highway, south of Ban Ban Springs on April 12, 2020. (Picture: Sam Turner)

A 30-year-old woman died a year earlier on May 8 after her Mitsubishi Triton twin-cab left the road and burst into flames, after colliding with a tree heading north towards Goomeri.

These stories are only a mere glimpse into the 37 recorded deaths from 2001-2018, with 12 occurring in the North Burnett according to data released by the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

Seven of these deaths occurred where the motorists have collided with objects such as trees, while the others were a mix of head on crashes with other vehicles or animals.

State MP for Callide Colin Boyce is a regular traveller along the Burnett Hwy, and believes there are notorious spots along the stretch where accidents commonly occur.

A crash along the Burnett Hwy on June 20. Picture: Contributed
A crash along the Burnett Hwy on June 20. Picture: Contributed

"The Gayndah south section down towards to Nanango, that has plenty of corners, bends, and especially blind corners, they're part of the reason some of these accidents happen," Mr Boyce said.

"There are sections that aren't safe, and we seem to have this steady occurrence on the highway where shoulders have fallen away, and there are sections that are very rough, and subside over time."

Mr Boyce is a member of the State Government's Transport and Public Works committee and is aware of the common defects of roads, especially in rural areas, that can appear on frequently used highways.

"Part of the problem is we have roads in poor condition, and not enough money allocated to fix them in regional areas," he said.

"The longer you leave these problems unaddressed, the bigger they become every year."

He uses the example of a pothole that may cost $100 to fix on first inspection, but over time this cost will balloon out to $1000 over a few years.

"If you allow cracks in the bitumen, then rain will seep into its foundation and will swell, causing the roads to get bumpy," Mr Boyce said.

"Then you have heavy machinery driving over it, and it deteriorates even further."

Data released by TMR indicated there were 130 hospitalisations along the highway from 2001-2018 in the North Burnett region.

Scenes from a one vehicle crash along the Burnett Hwy on February 7, 2020, a few kilometres outside Gayndah. Picture: Sam Turner.
Scenes from a one vehicle crash along the Burnett Hwy on February 7, 2020, a few kilometres outside Gayndah. Picture: Sam Turner.

The staggering amount of hospitalisations include 50 hit objects, 31 overturned vehicles, 17 angle crashes, four head multi-vehicle crashes, three hit pedestrians, and more.

Mr Boyce believes driving error and lack of experience can contribute to the high volume of crashes on not only along the Burnett Hwy, but in Queensland.

"The biggest thing is heaps of people travel along these roads and they don't have enough experience driving long distances in the country," he said.

"Some of the conditions can be quite poor, however I've seen crashes along straight stretches where it's clear there's been some type of driver distraction, or they haven't had enough breaks."

Several close calls have occurred in the North Burnett where motorists come close to disaster.

Two people escaped with only minor injuries after their car and caravan rolled near Binjour on July 8.

They were travelling along the highway towards Binjour when the pair in their 70s rolled both vehicles, severely damaging their caravan in tow.

Caravan crash along the Burnett Hwy in Binjour on July 8. Picture: Sam Turner
Caravan crash along the Burnett Hwy in Binjour on July 8. Picture: Sam Turner

A 29-year-old Monto woman and four children escaped with their lives after their vehicle rolled along the Burnett Hwy earlier this year on March 11.

Police have alleged the mother was more than three times the legal blood alcohol limit at the time of the crash.

A woman was flown to hospital on November 28 last year after the caravan she was in with her husband and pet dog launched off the highway into dense shrub near Ban Ban Springs.

Mr Boyce said in the last decade there has been several upgrades to the Burnett Hwy, including works between Mundubbera and Eidsvold, Mundubbera and Gayndah, Ban Ban Springs and works just south of Thangool.

These works in his opinion however are not enough, with the State Government continuously working on our roads every day.

"Our government, whoever it may be after the election, they need to understand, you cannot continually under fund road maintenance to the entire road network," he said.

The scene of a single vehicle rollover five kilometres outside Eidsvold on March 11. Picture: Contributed
The scene of a single vehicle rollover five kilometres outside Eidsvold on March 11. Picture: Contributed

"I'd love to see more funding go into the Burnett Hwy, having said that, what about every other highway in Queensland.

"The bucket of money is only so big, but the reality is it isn't big enough.

"We can't keep being underfunded."

The Queensland Police Service stated 136 lives were lost on our state's rural roads, and 1,915 seriously injured in 2019, which equates to more than 60 per cent of total road fatalities

RACQ spokesman Paul Turner said the message for motorists is everyone has a responsibility for saving not only our own lives, but also the lives of other motorists on our roads.

"2020 has been a very bad year for road safety at a time when many of us weren't driving for months," he said.

"We're still more than 20 deaths ahead, and thousands of Queenslanders directly impacted by road safety.

Scenes at the car accident in Blairmore, between Gayndah and Booubyjan in November 2019. Picture: Sam Turner.
Scenes at the car accident in Blairmore, between Gayndah and Booubyjan in November 2019. Picture: Sam Turner.

 

"That's 155 or more Queensland families who are grieving a loved one, or more loved ones, because of the year we've had in road safety.

"It's appalling."

In 2019, 68 lives were lost, and 2,193 were seriously injured in crashes involving young adult drivers, or riders aged between 16-24, according to QPS.

It's important to constantly remain vigilant when behind the wheel and remind ourselves of the Fatal Five.

These five behaviours are the cause, or contribute to, most of the serious traffic incidents and deaths on our roads:

- Speeding

- Drink and drug driving

- Not wearing seat belts

- Fatigue

- Driving while distracted



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