The tragic link between two fatal Burnett car crashes
IN THE past 14 days, the South Burnett region has seen 13 car crashes, two tragically resulting in death.
Of these 13 crashes, only one involved a second car.
The most curious similarity between these single-vehicle crashes was a lack of any obvious explanation for why they occurred in the first place. Every single one of these crashes occurred outside of a town CBD, in perfect weather, and on smooth-driving roads. So what happened?
According the Senior Sergeant David Tierney, these unproblematic conditions may in fact be part of the problem.
"All of those traffic crashes - not one - would be in what you'd call a CBD area. They were all out in country areas, where you're relaxed and driving," he said
"It's true that your likelihood of having a crash is higher within 10 kilometres from home. As you get closer, you start relaxing and thinking about what you're going to do when you get home."
"They just stop thinking about the half tonne piece of metal they're driving in at 100km/h."
Of the crashes that occurred over the past fortnight, the vast majority have been put down to inattention as the leading culprit.
"Cars are so easy to drive these days, you don't have to pay as much attention. But that can come at a cost," he said.
"It doesn't have to be more than a second. And phones aren't always the problem. You turn around to yell at the kids or pat your dog. It's that moment of inattention that there's no coming back from."
This extends to eating, drinks, fiddling with the GPS, searching for a radio station, which can all take a person attention away from the road just long enough for disaster to strike.
"Drivers just take for granted that nothing is going to happen to them," he said.
While it may be easy to put the recent rise in crashes down to the start of the school holidays, Sgt Tierney said the investigations just don't speak to that.
"It's happened through the school holidays, but that could just be coincidence. School age kids haven't even been in the cars, so I wouldn't put it down to school holidays," he said.
It is tempting to distance yourself from such a terrifying concept, but Sgt Tierney said a little mental preparation and a touch of foresight could mean the difference between life and death.
"When I'm driving I'll be thinking, particularly on bits of road I've never driven on before, what would I do if a car came out here. Do I have the option of going off road?"
"People just don't know what to do, so we try and encourage them to do a defensive driving course or come to the under the bonnet nights we have."
Likewise, when pulling a trailer or a caravan, taking proper care of your machinery could save a lot of heartache.
"People don't maintain their trailers and caravans as well as their car. There's a lot more weigh on things like a caravan, so you should be checking things like the wheelbase all the time," he said.
"Particularly when you consider where people are usually taking them - beaches, dusty areas, caravan parks - they should be given a service before you take them long distances."
Obviously there will be circumstances which make a crash inevitable, but in most cases, the end result depends on the person behind the wheel and how they react in that moment. This is why the QPS have altered their official language, opting for the word crash over accident, since 'accident' implies no responsibility.
For this reason, Sgt Tierney says people need to meet the police halfway, rather than immediately finding something or someone else to blame.
"People have got to take responsibility. We can't keep legislating and crowding the nanny state," he said.