A woman was killed in a fatal crash at Tiaro.
A woman was killed in a fatal crash at Tiaro.

Rise in road deaths despite less lockdown traffic

MORE drivers have died in the road policing division encompassing the Fraser Coast this year, despite the lengthy lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With fewer drivers on the road and travelling shorter distances many expected the number of fatalities to plummet, alongside petrol prices which dropped to the lowest prices in 15 years.

But according to statistics from Transport and Main Roads, there were 39 deaths in the North Coast and Wide Bay-Burnett region in the year to July 19, compared to 31 in 2019.

Across the state, there has been 132 road deaths so far this year compared to 114 for the same period last year.

Just last week, a 58-year-old woman was killed in a horror crash at Tiaro, while last month three people were killed in just days on the Bruce Highway at Torbanlea and Tinana.

A woman was killed in a fatal crash at Tiaro.
A woman was killed in a fatal crash at Tiaro.

One man who isn't surprised by the data is Forensic Crash Unit Sergeant Glenn Rusten.

In his time attending fatal crashes over the past 12 to 15 years, very few had been caused by a mechanical fault with the car or road conditions.

He said avoiding fatal crashes all came down to driver behaviour.

"Every choice has a consequence," he said.

Sgt Rusten said it did not make police officer popular when they wrote out tickets, but it reminded people how they should behave on the road.

He said it was hard however to change human nature.

"We have a community at the moment that is very focused on objectives or outcomes.

"When we are after something, it's got to be immediate.

Fatal – Wide Bay Burnett Forensic Crash Unit Sergeant Glenn Rusten. Photo: Cody Fox
Fatal – Wide Bay Burnett Forensic Crash Unit Sergeant Glenn Rusten. Photo: Cody Fox


"When people get in the car, they forget to focus on the job at hand.

"Human nature has a large role to play in all these crashes."

Sgt Rusten said people often became complacent behind the wheel.

That might involve glancing at their phone, checking on the kids in the back seat or changing the radio station.

"These are things you do 1000 times over," he said.

"While nothing changes, it's great."
It was when a sudden change on the road happened that disaster could strike, Sgt Rusten said.

"The biggest killer I see is poor decisions by drivers," he said.

"They lose control over the vehicle and the situation."

Sgt Rusten said deaths on the roads tore families apart.

"It's something that will change your life. You never forget it," he said.

He said seeing stories on the news did not compare to being at the seen and witnessing the tragedy.

"Having to walk to someone's door and tell them their loved one has died - it really rips families apart.

"You see how hard it is for families and how hard it is for emergency services."

Sgt Rusten said less traffic on the roads had made it easier for drivers to get from point A to point B.

"But concentration levels need to come up," he said.

Another challenge facing the region was being in a fatigue zone between Gympie and Miriam Vale, Sgt Rusten said.

The roads were still good, but here there was less lighting and drivers coming from Brisbane or Rockhampton had been on the road about three hours when they arrived in the area.

Stopping to rest was vital, he said, as well as remembering the other members of the fatal five, including speeding, seatbelts and driving under the influence.