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Yogies driving like maniacs on the Kings Hwy? Check

By Charlotte Harper - 9 January 2017 26

Crash distributions along Kings Highway, 2007-2011

Oh Canberra drivers, it’s no wonder South Coast locals call us Yogies*. If the way we behave on the black spot-filled Kings Highway is any indication, the majority of us Y-number plate drivers are living up to the very low expectations of our temporary Eurobodalla neighbours. We are a bunch of losers.

Save up all year for a relaxing family holiday at the beach? Check. Drive like a maniac on the way there or back, putting our family and everyone around us on the road at risk so we can get back to Canberra ten or 15 minutes earlier? In many cases, unfortunately, it’s check again, and results speak for themselves (see the map above of crash sites along the Kings Highway between 2007-2011).

The road is notorious. In 2005, an NRMA Motoring and Services road survey found that casualty crash rates on the Kings Highway were 85% higher than the NSW average and road fatalities were 8% higher. This seems odd given there are several equally windy stretches of road up and down the coast. What could be causing this difference? Could it be us? Given the road is primarily used by Canberrans travelling too and from the coast, I’d argue very strongly that we are the problem here.

What can be done to prevent road fatalities on the Kings Highway?

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The first example we came across for the summer came on the afternoon of December 27, when a 36-year-old ACT woman driver was detected driving at 127km/h in a 90km/h zone on the Kings Highway at Currowan (between Nelligan and Braidwood). The woman was stopped and returned a positive breath test. Her blood alcohol reading was 0.134 – almost three times the legal limit. Police will allege two children, girls aged eight and 11, were travelling in the car at the time of the offences. Officers suspended her licence on the spot and charged her with drink-driving.

Last night, driving home from my own family holiday, and driving either at the speed limit or at the recommended speeds marked for taking corners/bends, I was overtaken by several cars at each of the overtaking zones on the Clyde Mountain, including three cars in the section after the sign warning the overtaking lane was coming to the end. A fourth car hesitated and decided against passing me exactly at the last possible point in which I could merge back in, then sat on my tail for a couple of kilometres before overtaking me on a dangerous stretch at high speed.

A big thumbs up to the driver of a white Volkswagen SUV who sat at a safe distance behind me on the speed limit from the Bay to Braidwood as we watched the lunatics speed by.

It was a relief to take a break at the Braidwood Bakery, but as soon as we hit the road again, the race was back on. The limit in the town is 50km/h, but several cars sat behind me, their drivers looking furious as I held that line. One overtook at the first opportunity, then tailgated a truck up ahead that could only travel at about 80km/h. Thankfully, the truck turned off near the Shoalhaven River picnic area and the aggressive driver giving him so much grief sped off into the distance. I so wished I had a dashcam to capture it all and hand over to police, or share here on the RiotACT.

This sort of behaviour was evident all trip, and many of the offenders were P-platers. Almost all had ACT numberplates.

Not far away, a few kilometres south of Narooma, a 19-year-old man was taken to Bega Hospital for mandatory blood and urine testing after a head-on collision at Central Tilba on Saturday between the SUV he was driving and a Corolla driven by a 19-year-old woman. The woman died at the scene, and her passenger, also 19, was airlifted to Canberra Hospital. The male driver of the SUV was uninjured.

We all complain about the state of the roads on which we drive during our holidays, but impatient and irresponsible driver behaviour is the key factor at play.

In the case of the Kings Highway, the NSW Government has done much work to improve it in recent years. NSW Police issue warnings and reminders every holiday season, too.

According to the 2005 NRMA survey on the King Highway, the rate of people hospitalised after crashes on the Kings Highway was well over the national average. 877 crashes were recorded on Kings Highway over a 10-year period, an average of about one crash every four days. Over this time there had been 24 fatal crashes, 355 crashes resulting in injury and 488 crashes resulting in property damage. The rate was worse than this in 2004, when there were 103 crashes resulting in six fatalities and 53 injuries.

Crashes on the Kings Highway had cost A$42.65 million over three years covered in the survey – that’s equivalent to nearly A$39,000 every day.

The research found there were particular concerns on the Clyde Mountain, where only 5% of road was deemed to provide “safe” overtaking opportunities. Two blackspots and sixteen blacklengths were identified. The 40km section of road over the Great Dividing Range – which includes the Clyde Mountain – recorded the highest number of crashes, with 22% of all incidents occurring in this area.

The most common type of crash – 18% of all incidents – was when a vehicle left the road to the left on a right hand bend and crashed into a stationary object. Head-on collisions made up one in 10 of all crashes. Crashes occurred most frequently on Sundays (20%) and least frequently on Tuesdays (9%).

In a 2015 paper for the Australasian Road Safety Conference entitled ‘When, where and why road crashes are likely on the Kings Highway NSW?’, University of New England academics Sahar Aliana, R.G.V Bakera and Stephen Wood found there had been a slight increase in casualty crash rates along Kings Highway in recent years, resulting in a road safety review and ongoing upgrades. It is their map above that illustrates the Kings Highway route and casualty crash locations from 2007 to 2011. Everyone should have to look at this map before they hit the road to the coast.

The paper’s main findings were that the rate of crashes was more at night; and on curves during the day, travelling eastbound, downhill.

Please stick to the speed limit and take those corners slowly, Canberra. Your life as well as those of your loved ones and of fellow road users may depend on it.

* Canberrans have been called Yogies by South Coast residents for years because of our numberplates, as in this example from a surfing website: “It [Broulee] fills up with Yogie ididots [sic] with no idea of the rules. If you act with respect and a bit of a clue, the locals will give you the time, but we see too many morons come down the clyde and the damage is sorta done… just leave your money and daughters and sisters, and go to malua bay or something.”

What’s been your experience on the Clyde and on the Kings Highway in general this summer? Are Canberra drivers on the coast road really all that bad? What can be done to prevent more fatalities on the way to and from Batemans Bay?

What’s Your opinion?


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26 Responses to
Yogies driving like maniacs on the Kings Hwy? Check
Holden Caulfield 1:21 pm 10 Jan 17

Queanbeyanite said :

…A particularly inconsiderate behaviour is speeding up on overtaking lanes, drivers not intending to overtake should actually slow down to 80kph and leave at least three carspaces ahead to allow safe overtaking…

You’re completely right that it is inconsideration that often leads to a build up in frustration and your point highlighted is a great example of what causes a build up and a potentially suitable solution.

Alas, in an increasingly combative society a slower driver slowing down would only make them think they have lost the battle with the faster drivers. When in actual fact, the biggest impact, in most cases, would be a release of anxiety and frustration.

Holden Caulfield 1:15 pm 10 Jan 17

Jane Speechley said :

It’s not easy under pressure, and is unnecessarily stressful, but it’s very easy to be bullied into driving faster than you’d like – good on you for not letting it happen.

Equally, if you notice a tailback of cars behind you, it is very easy to pull aside and let the group of cars pass by. You might not think it’s right to let the “speeding” cars win, but it will undoubtedly relive stress and frustration for all concerned.

I hate having tailgaters sit on my backside too and when I was younger my first reaction was to often speed up. You know the worst part? Many tailgaters don’t even know they’re doing it, so after I had sped up and built a more comfortable gap the tailgater would simply catch me again and then resume their place filling my rear vision mirror. I’d get angry and frustrated and nothing would change. Then I worked out a better way: When safe to do so, I just pull over to the side of the road and let them go. I’m not going to change their behaviour, so all I can do is take the action that makes me most comfortable.

Ultimately it’s about driver attitudes and if you’re a driver that gets frustrated by “idiots” then why add to their frustration by taking an action that will only frustrate both parties? It doesn’t matter how self-righteous you may feel, chances are you’re only adding to your own stress, let alone anyone else’s.

Penalising drivers with fines etc seems to have limited success. The issue, as I see it, is much, much broader and is symptomatic of a general selfishness in society. Driving education should focus on sharing the road, being patient, understanding the needs of other road users and giving drivers (new and experienced) techniques to deal with moments of frustration behind the wheel. It should be a lot more than simply, “stick to the speed limit” and that’s all you need to do to be a good/safe driver. There is so much more to achieving that than obeying an arbitrary sign on a road that has probably hasn’t had any more than a blanket consideration on what constitutes a safe speed for that road.

I’m sure we could discuss the merits, or lack of, on how and why speed limits are applied to various roads. One of the problems with the just “stick to the speed limit” approach is that it can contribute to a lessening of a driver’s responsibility. All I need to do is obey the sign, right? Nothing else matters. If the limit is 100, then I can go 100. Well not always. An acute awareness of the road and its conditions–be that weather, traffic or road surface—as well what other road users are doing, or may be about to do, is required to even get close to being a safe driver.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the capacity to be a good driver. But we’ll give them a licence anyway, because our authorities are willing to cheat the public by making a licence far too easy to obtain.

This is a very simplistic approach of mine, but if a person is no good at golf, they probably won’t persist with playing golf. Yet, we have a lot of people who are apparently no good at driving who continue to persist.

The biggest issue I see with road users, regardless if they’re in a car, on a pushbike or whatever, is they just need to calm the F down and be more aware and considerate of everyone they’re sharing the road with. A fine or license suspension does nothing to increase a person’s capacity to be patient and more considerate. I have no idea how best to do that, haha, but I maintain that achieving an across the board increase in awareness, anticipation and general attitude would have a greater effect on road safety than anything we’ve seen to date.

Queanbeyanite 9:30 pm 09 Jan 17

My pet subject.

Although much improved in the last decade, Canberra born drivers in particular show a lack of common courtesy to other drivers. 90% of drivers tailgate (travel <3 seconds behind the car ahead, which make safe overtaking impossible. A particularly inconsiderate behaviour is speeding up on overtaking lanes, drivers not intending to overtake should actually slow down to 80kph and leave at least three carspaces ahead to allow safe overtaking. I am surprised the NSW government does not blanket the road during holiday period to raise revenue, they could book every second car for tailgating with a few strategically placed speed cameras. My good Canberra born friends, even the women, never cease to amaze me with their extremely agressive dog-eat-dog approach to travelling long distance anywhere; the visceral fear of someone 'cutting in' and the blanket assumption that anyone ahead not tailgating must be a slow driver to be overtaken.

Booyah 4:52 pm 09 Jan 17

steveu said :

A tunnel through the Clyde mountain, with a tollway – would save lives, stimulate the south coast economy (more people would commute from coast to canberra) and provide a better link between the two communities.

I agree the road could do with further improvements, such as dual carriageway. I don’t see how a tunnel would work, given the Coast side is sea level and the Braidwood side 800m above sea level? Don’t you just mean make a straighter road, perhaps using bridges to minimise the corners?

Maryann Mussared 3:35 pm 09 Jan 17

For those who missed this frightening set of statistics on 5 January in our local rag, one in three Canberra drivers drugs tested over the Christmas period tested positive. So transfer that statistic to people heading down the coast in ACT registered cars, this could provide some sort of explanation. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberras-holiday-road-toll-zero-despite-dangerous-driving-20170104-gtlqsx.html . What amazes me is the number of P-platers both in the ACT and NSW who drive around on warm days with ‘occupants with body parts out of windows or doors”. I see this all the time, including a ‘trifecta’ the other day of three occupants all with ‘body parts’ our of the window. This morning I saw (I couldn’t miss it as it overtook me at about 130 mph) a car on the Federal Highway with the front passenger reclining, more than likely without a seat belt and feet well and truly protruding out the front window, and the rear passenger leaning both arm and head out the window. Have drivers forgotten their obligations to their passengers and the risk they personally run of being booked?

Maryann Mussared 3:20 pm 09 Jan 17

Suzanne Kiraly said :

steveu said :

A tunnel through the Clyde mountain, with a tollway – would save lives, stimulate the south coast economy (more people would commute from coast to canberra) and provide a better link between the two communities.

steveu, I totally love the idea of a tunnel – would benefit all!

I’ve already suggested in the latest post about PTCBR and the issue of getting the tram across the Lake, that second hand drilling machines are actually available, formerly used in major Sydney projects such as WestConnex. After they have been used to drill under the Lake for the tram, they could move on and drill through Mount Ainslie to allow the Very Fast Train from Sydney and Brisbane easy access into Canberra and the airport, and then shuffle over to Braidwood and get to work there. We are just wearing the poor old Clyde Mountain out…

nealg 3:02 pm 09 Jan 17

It is not the road that is the problem, it is the drivers, and their lack of ability, and overt aggression that is the problem.

I have been travelling down to the coast from Canberra since I was a boy in the ’50s. Then the road over the Clyde was dirt with no Armco barriers. I have done many journeys along the road since, in cars, 4WDs, and motorcycles. Now I regularly drive to our bush block south of Araluen.

Over the years I have witnessed the sheer stupidy of drivers travelling to and from the coast. Inappropriate overtaking, or groups of 10 to 20 vehicles travelling with about one car length between each of them, leaving no room for error are just a couple of things witnessed.

So what if the traffic slows to 90 or 80kms/hr in the 100 zone. You will get to your destination just a few minutes later than planned. Just go with the flow, leave plenty of room in front of you and behind (if possible) and scan ahead for oncoming fools.

switch 1:48 pm 09 Jan 17

Forget Clyde Mountain, the bit out of Queanbeyan is deadly!

Jane Speechley 1:45 pm 09 Jan 17

Well done you for ‘holding the line’, Charlotte!

It’s not easy under pressure, and is unnecessarily stressful, but it’s very easy to be bullied into driving faster than you’d like – good on you for not letting it happen.

steveu said :

A tunnel through the Clyde mountain, with a tollway – would save lives, stimulate the south coast economy (more people would commute from coast to canberra) and provide a better link between the two communities.

A great idea for many reasons, SteveU – but do you think it will actually make for safer roads? Sometimes I think navigating the Clyde is the only thing that actually slows people down for a while!

steveu 1:41 pm 09 Jan 17

dungfungus said :

steveu said :

A tunnel through the Clyde mountain, with a tollway – would save lives, stimulate the south coast economy (more people would commute from coast to canberra) and provide a better link between the two communities.

Why not put in a tram as well? Would only cost a couple of billion dollars extra?

Back to reality, the Barton Highway has been in the news again (back pages) with none of the pre-2016 Federal Elections being fulfilled.

Thousands of people battle into Canberra and back every day on this “highway” whereas a few thousand travel to and from our south coast maybe once or twice a year.

I think there is a clear priority here.

Tollway would support funding of it. Tunnelling technologies are improving rapidly.
Alot more people commute to from the coast than you realise. Most the real estate in the south coast is owned by Canberrans. Canberra needs to embrace change and redefine itself.

As far as the barton Highway goes, well the voting public got fooled. Which is most disappointing particularly for those who live in Murrumbateman etc. There is no interest investing in infrastructure with the current govt unless it directly benefits one of their cronies companies.

devils_advocate 1:21 pm 09 Jan 17

I would also suggest it’s not worth getting indignant about people being anxious to overtake – many modern cars have speedometers that read at least 5 and as much as 10 kilometres over the real speed, (i.e. the driver thinks they’re doing the speed limit, but actually doing 10kph slower) and this effect can be compounded due to tire pressures and other factors.
In addition, some people have cars that are not really suited to the particular stretch of road between ACT and Batemans Bay, having to slow down to navigate curves in the road and so forth. Being stuck behind a slow car can be dangerous especially on the downhill section as you then have to start using your brakes in addition to the gears.
So have some consideration and understanding for the people who are driving behind you, especially on the single-lane stretches.

dungfungus 1:12 pm 09 Jan 17

steveu said :

A tunnel through the Clyde mountain, with a tollway – would save lives, stimulate the south coast economy (more people would commute from coast to canberra) and provide a better link between the two communities.

Why not put in a tram as well? Would only cost a couple of billion dollars extra?

Back to reality, the Barton Highway has been in the news again (back pages) with none of the pre-2016 Federal Elections being fulfilled.

Thousands of people battle into Canberra and back every day on this “highway” whereas a few thousand travel to and from our south coast maybe once or twice a year.

I think there is a clear priority here.

Suzanne Kiraly 12:34 pm 09 Jan 17

steveu said :

A tunnel through the Clyde mountain, with a tollway – would save lives, stimulate the south coast economy (more people would commute from coast to canberra) and provide a better link between the two communities.

steveu, I totally love the idea of a tunnel – would benefit all!

rommeldog56 12:09 pm 09 Jan 17

Totally agree Charlotte. This is was my experience of driving on a trip to the coast just before XMAS – and traffic was lighter then – which was posted in the “What on Earth is Wrong with Canberra Drivers” article ” :

” Last weekend over 2 days, I drove from Canberra down the Clyde Mountain, then down the coast to Bega, visiting most places in between, then up the Brown Mountain and back to Canberra.
There was unfortunately, much poor driving on display. I must say that Canberra plated cars were easily the worst driven – with doing 20+ kph under the speed limit and not using indicators, being the most common issue.
So, “What on earth is wrong with Canberra Drivers ” ? : One observation is that there seem to be a high number of drivers from non english speaking backgrounds here. Another is that Canberra drivers are regularly distracted in the cabin eg. laptops, mobile phones, etc. Both of which was evident in poor driving by drivers of ACT plated cars on my trip.
But, maybe ACT drivers drive they way they vote. ie. Seemingly in a cocoon of self importance and self indulgence without any regard for the possible outcomes of their actions nor much regard for others on the road, let alone for their own safety.
If u have to travel on the roads this XMAS, please do so safely and in consideration of other road users. And if you come across any ACT plated vehicles when driving interstate – be very careful !!! “

steveu 11:42 am 09 Jan 17

A tunnel through the Clyde mountain, with a tollway – would save lives, stimulate the south coast economy (more people would commute from coast to canberra) and provide a better link between the two communities.

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