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.
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?