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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?


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26 Responses to
Yogies driving like maniacs on the Kings Hwy? Check
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govnor 6:37 pm 26 Feb 17

Haha yes @steveu A tunnel through the Clyde Mountain – that’s awesome! Use some of the resources at Alexander Maconochie Centre to dig it by hand. Or possibly ditch the tram idea and dig a tunnel?

You’re no fun @dungfungus haha

gazket 9:46 pm 23 Feb 17

Most Canberrans cant actually drive, they just steer. They can’t even merge at 40kph and smoothly accelerate back up to a 80kph speed in 200m.

A 80kph 2 lane merge in Canberra usually involves a complete stop to make the merging manoeuvre then a very jerky accelerate then on the brakes wipe off 20kph, off the brakes, accelerate then on the brake off the brakes for 2 kms to finally get back up to 80 kph .

How do you expect them to drive open road safely? It will never happen, as some people have no interest in cars what so ever and will never understand vehicles dynamics.

Futureproof 5:52 pm 30 Jan 17

What fool builds a road where trees are only a few metres from the side of the road, particularly where that famous artist was killed last year. I can’t believe that section is listed as a 100 kph. I drive the Kings Highway everyday. It is one of the worst roads I have ever driven, and I have driven a lot of roads all over Australia.

Chris Mordd Richards 10:02 pm 20 Jan 17

tim_c said :

Driver’s licences are being handed out like raffle tickets at the spring fair (ie. to anyone who will pay for one). It’s interesting that when the idea of placing driver testing in the hands of driving schools was suggested (about 15-20 years ago), many people responded saying that this would result in a lot of incompetent and/or unsafe drivers on our roads – afterall, no driving school wants to risk getting a reputation of being too tough or they”ll lose business to their more lenient competitors. It appears we’re now seeing exactly that outcome on our roads.

Drivers schools being too lenient? I see, hmm. I only learnt to drive properly at 30, caught public transport and rode a bike up till then. I went with NRMA driving school, took me 16 one hour lessons plus the 2 hour final assessment to work through my log book, and my instructor was a former military driving instructor from the ADF, and I tell you he was certainly not lenient, far from it! If anything he was too harsh, but I liked that as I knew it would make be a better driver. I can’t comment on other driving schools as I only did lessons with NRMA, but taking the view that all driving schools are lenient due to competition and reputation is quite insulting to the many professional driver instructors in Canberra who are most certainly not lenient, the opposite if anything. I welcome spot checks, random reviews, whatever if you think you can make an actual case at widespread leniency in the industry in the ACT, but so far you have not made a case for that other than hearsay basically. Look forward to discussing further if you got stats, news reports, etc.. to back up that leniency claim, I call false stereotype on it for the moment though.

tim_c 12:24 pm 20 Jan 17

Jerry Atric said :

I have been travelling that road (with an extension north) for over 70 years to stay with my grandmother at Ulladulla. Then of course it wasn’t sealed….

What are you talking about – we STILL don’t have a sealed road all the way through!

tim_c 12:23 pm 20 Jan 17

Forget the tunnel through the Clyde Mountain (that’s the most interesting part of the drive anyway – why would you want to skip it?!) – it would save far more time during peak holiday periods if Braidwood was by-passed. The main delays coming home appear to be caused by Braidwood, specifically the right-turn at the bottom of the hill and then the pedestrian crossings – these interruptions often cause traffic to bank up and slow to a crawl for 15-20km east of Braidwood (meaning it can take an hour to get from the top of Clyde Mtn to Braidwood).

HenryBG 3:49 pm 18 Jan 17

If you were slowing down for every bend, then no wonder people are keen to get past you. I’m willing to bet your “travelling at the speed limit” was in fact “travelling at wildly variable speeds, mostly at a significant amount below the speed limit”.
Perhaps you should do the right thing and slow down for the queue of cars banked up behind you so they can do so more safely when they have an overtaking opportunity.
The hesitation you describe in the 4th driver was probably just somebody just being a bit cagey because they weren’t sure if you would drive with care and consideration, or whether you would insist on baulking them as your lane came to an end.

Jerry Atric 8:23 pm 12 Jan 17

The basic fact about the King’s Highway is that it takes 2 hours plus or minus 10 minutes to get to Batemans Bay either via Queanbeyan or Macs Reef regardless of your speed. And some extra minutes can be interesting and often a joy.

I have been travelling that road (with an extension north) for over 70 years to stay with my grandmother at Ulladulla. Then of course it wasn’t sealed. East of Braidwood there used to be many stone chimneys the remnents of the fires and the deep Creek crossing with its narrow bridge was always exciting.

At the Shoalhaven crossing we were told about a dray (loaded with wheat wool?) hadtipped over and killed the driver.
Coming down the mountain we got all our information mixed and thought that to little cave was where Japanese soldiers hid, not teddybears. Coming back up the mountain was always difficult and we always stopped to boil the billy, at Cabbage tree creek unlike many cars that boiled on that first pinch and having cooled, struggled on to negotiate the infamous hairpin bend There were leeches and snakes and goannas there. Cars zoom past this passing point but a trip down to the creek is worthwhile to see the original concreted ford, now washed away across this lovely fresh stream.

Further on we go through the “Dinosaur food” forest and on to Nelligan. We crossed the Clyde on a punt in those days, usually with a wait on either side. When did your kids ever had the excitment of taking your car across a river on a punt. And there is an even bigger double punt at Bateman’s Bay.

After more than 150 years of my family on the South coast, I have never heard of Yogies but I know Canberrans can do more to enjoy an extra 10 minutes of life on their trip to the coast

Masquara 6:19 pm 12 Jan 17

I find that at the end of the overtaking lane it is nice to be chilled and let cars get past you right up to the last possible point.

tim_c 4:34 pm 12 Jan 17

Holden Caulfield said :

…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.

Good on you Mr Caulfield! It makes me feel that little bit safer being reminded that there are still people like you that I share our roads with!

Our community has the view that a driver’s licence is a right, not a privilege (with a tonne of responsibility attached) – just look at the outcome for anyone who has their licence disqualified, but argues they “need it for their job” – they usually get it reinstated. The response really should be something along the lines of “You should have thought of that before you did whatever you did to get disqualified – for most of us, we need to not be killed by a dangerous driver so we can continue working in our job”

Driver’s licences are being handed out like raffle tickets at the spring fair (ie. to anyone who will pay for one). It’s interesting that when the idea of placing driver testing in the hands of driving schools was suggested (about 15-20 years ago), many people responded saying that this would result in a lot of incompetent and/or unsafe drivers on our roads – afterall, no driving school wants to risk getting a reputation of being too tough or they”ll lose business to their more lenient competitors. It appears we’re now seeing exactly that outcome on our roads.

tim_c 4:14 pm 12 Jan 17

How about we stop with the nonsense-speak like
(a) “the road is notorious” – there is nothing wrong with the road, many of us have managed to drive along it countless times without incident, the problem lies with those have have/cause incidents.
(b) “a car left the road” – cars don’t just ‘leave’ roads, they have to be driven off the road.

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!

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