Deputy PM to inspect new highway horror stretch
Tragic toll for 2017 on highway to the north
January 15 - woman, 27, dies after being hit by truck.
April 1 - woman, 75, killed in crash at Gunalda.
April 17 - brother and sister killed at Tiaro.
Joyce to act on horror highway
DEPUTY Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has promised to visit Gympie soon to investigate an early start on work to bypass Monday's fatal crash scene at Chatsworth.
Mr Joyce, who is also now federal Transport Minister, will visit Gympie within weeks, Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien said yesterday.
Mr O'Brien said that while many people urged drivers to be more careful and patient, there was no doubt the new highway south of Gympie had saved many lives.
Section D of the project would extend the upgraded highway past Gympie on its eastern side, linking up with the route just north of Curra.
"It's obvious if we're fair dinkum about road safety, we'll get on and do Section D," Mr O'Brien said.
"The detailed design and land acquisition is done and Section D is ready to roll.
"And you don't spend $65 million getting ready and then not continue.
"(Mr Joyce) is coming up.
"I've spoken to him specifically about Section D and he's given me a commitment to come up in the very near future and have a look for himself."
Progressive improvements would continue further north. "We've done some really significant road edge and centre line widening and the new section at Bauple is of a much higher standard," Mr O'Brien said.
"We've just spent $18 million between Tiaro and Maryborough and $300 million at the Tinana Interchange black spot."
The highway would also bring economic benefits, providing a flood-free link to the south.
Who or what is to blame?
FEW people believe the Bruce Highway to Gympie's north is adequate for the traffic.
But drivers can be even worse, locals say.
Glenwood mother Lauren Ambrose revisited the spot where she had her accident, when an inattentive driver crashed into her from behind as she waited to turn south.
"Pay attention," she urges.
Others, such as one man who said his wife was killed near Chatsworth nearly four years ago, say the road is cruel even to the innocent.
"There's nothing but embankments. She couldn't get out of the way," he said.
Pacific Petroleum service station and shop owner Chris Yeats says holidays are the worst, with too many drivers under too much pressure, ignoring fatigue and taking risks.
"There are too many deaths and drivers need to be careful here," he says.
Highway is inevitable, so drivers urged to adapt
REGULAR Bruce Highway motorists are pleading for drivers to take it easy on a road which has become our new horror stretch.
Highway safety became an early New Year issue with the death of a Maryborough man, 21, in a two-vehicle head-on at Chatsworth on Monday.
It followed a highway truck crash emergency at Glenwood only three days before.
The truck driver, a man in his 50s, was trapped for four hours amid leaking fuel before being flown to hospital.
It came at the end of a bad year on the highway north.
Tragedies included an Easter Monday crash at Tiaro, which killed a Bundaberg brother and sister, a truck crash that took the life of a Brisbane father and his two young children, and a crash outside the Gunalda service station that claimed an elderly woman.
While the fearful toll of years past on the Bruce Highway south has now been alleviated, an increasingly busy highway north has become increasingly unforgiving.
Common errors of inattention and impatience are now much more likely to be fatal.
Glenwood mother Lauren Ambrose says she was a highway commuter for several years and her husband Wayne Owen still was.
"I had a car accident right here at this intersection," she said at the side of the highway on the corner of Arbor 10 Road.
"I was on my way to work, turning onto the highway, when someone ran up behind me."
"They need to change people's attitudes," she said.
One man, who identified himself only as Paul, said he had lost his wife in a car crash "on the same stretch of highway" four years ago in July.
"There's nothing but embankments on either side. She couldn't get out of the way," he said.
It was part of a series of fatal crashes that prompted Gympie ambulance officer in chief Wayne Sachs to call for action.
"We can't wait 20 years to get four lanes, we need Sections C (recently opened) and D done now," he said at that time.
Pacific Petroleum service station and shop manager Chris Yeats said crowded holiday road conditions were a big factor, requiring drivers to use extra care.
"A bloke nearly hit me," David Lauckenhausen said, criticising both road conditions and the drivers who do not take account of them.
"I was in the slow lane and he pulled across in front of me and nearly hit me.
" It's fatigue, I think," he said.
Road or driver - history says both are to blame
THE Bruce Highway to Gympie's south claimed so many lives in the early years of this century that many feared, quite realistically, for their safety, as well as that of their families or friends.
Many took to driving slower than the limit, even before it was lowered to 90 km/h.
Gympie ambulance chief Wayne Sachs recommended avoiding at least part of the problem by driving initially on the Mary Valley Highway, though some residents said increased traffic volumes in the Valley might just shift the problem rather than solve it.
Mr Sachs also urged drivers to always have their headlights on.
The two-lane country road to Gympie's south was no longer adequate for the almost urban level of traffic using it, especially at peak commuter times.
It was a road which did not forgive mistakes and the RACQ rated it one of Australia's most dangerous stretches of highway per kilometre.
Now the problem seems to be moving north.