Better roads move holiday carnage north

Joshua Dowling April 05, 2012

Police speeding

Police out in record numbers over the Easter long weekend.

New sections of divided road on the Pacific Highway have moved serious-injury and fatal crashes further north, police have revealed on the eve of the Easter long weekend.

While motorists continue to wait for the pledged $6 billion upgrade to Australia’s deadliest stretch of road – the 340km of mostly single-lane highway between Nambucca Heads and the NSW-Queensland border – police will saturate the region with more officers than ever before.

A little more than half of the highway between Sydney and Tweed Heads is dual carriageway, but the main arterial south of the border – mostly winding, undulating and a single-lane in each direction – is still a menace.

“The new sections of freeways and bypasses mean that motorists are travelling further than before but in the same amount of time,” Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, traffic and highway patrol commander, told the Herald.

“As a result, we’re seeing fatigue-related serious-injury and fatal crashes move further north. While we will have police in all corners of the state, we will pay particular attention to where we know the trouble spots are.”

To try to counteract the carnage, there will be more highway patrol officers on the road this Easter long weekend than any other holiday period in NSW history – more than 1000 all told.

It will be the first time the highway patrol has undertaken such a wide scale operation since it formed its own command in January.

Previously, highway patrol officers reported to hierarchy in their local area. Under the new regime, they are still based at suburban and regional police stations, but report to a centralised unit and can be deployed anywhere in the state.

“This means we will have much higher visibility, especially during holiday periods,” Mr Hartley said.

Five motorists died and 260 were seriously injured on NSW roads last Easter, but former highway patrolman, NSW police minister Mike Gallacher, wants to repeat the 2008 holiday result, when miraculously no-one lost their lives.

“This Easter, we’d love to see a zero result in terms of fatalities,” Mr Gallacher said. “It is ambitious, it’s hopeful. But I ‘d like to see this message get through. Drive your vehicle … like you did when you first got your driver’s licence.”

Police also expressed concern about the number of passengers aged 18 to 25 who were killed because they were not wearing seatbelts.

Many drivers are unaware that they get the $265 fine and demerit points if a passenger is not wearing a seatbelt – and the passenger, if licenced, can also be issued with the same fine and points, which over the next four days will amount to $265 and six demerit points per unbelted person.

Double demerit points for speeding and seatbelt offences are in force from now until midnight on Easter Monday.

The 2012 NSW road toll stood at 97 deaths leading into the long weekend – four more fatalities than the same period last year, although 2011 was the lowest road toll since 1946.

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