Port Pirie Recorder launches investigation into Augusta Highway road collisions

ACTION: Civil Contractors Federation of South Australia chief executive Phil Sutherland. Mr Sutherland is protesting for the federal and state government to fix the Augusta Highway. Image supplied: Civil Contractors Federation of SA.
ACTION: Civil Contractors Federation of South Australia chief executive Phil Sutherland. Mr Sutherland is protesting for the federal and state government to fix the Augusta Highway. Image supplied: Civil Contractors Federation of SA.

How many more people have to die on the Augusta Highway?

Following the fatal crash of a 21-year-old female driver at the intersection of Warnertown Road and the Augusta Highway at Bungama on September 20, The Recorder launched an investigation into how many lives have been lost on that stretch of road.

According to a police spokesperson, from 2015 to 2019 there were six motor vehicle collisions at the intersection and in 2020 there have been a further two motor vehicle collisions at the same intersection.

Since 2015, there has only been one fatality at the intersection, which was the collision last month involving the young female driver.

While the investigation into the fatal crash is ongoing, a police spokesperson said the main contributing factors involved in all eight motor vehicle collisions since 2015 were predominantly "inattention" or driving with "lack of due care", where a driver has failed to give way or stop at the Warnertown Road and Augusta Highway intersection.

Based on data, a police spokesperson said the majority of the collisions were "rear ended", where two vehicles had approached the intersection and the rear vehicle had hit the vehicle in front as they slowed down and/or came to a stop.

In addition, SAPOL stated one of the crashes involved a single motor vehicle that was speeding through the intersection and rolled, while another was a person "driving dangerously" before rear-ending the vehicle in front of them at the intersection.

"In short, all of the motor vehicle collisions at this intersection involved at least one of the Fatal Five; the most common being distraction (inattention/lack of due care), followed by speeding and dangerous driving," said the police spokesperson.

Out of the eight collisions, four involved heavy vehicles, most of which the police spokesperson said were not the fault of the heavy vehicle driver.

When asked about whether a lack of signage at the intersection could have played a role in the motor vehicle accidents, a police spokesperson said half of the collisions involved residents from the Yorke Mid North or Port Augusta area.

"Of the four collisions that involved people that did not reside locally, all the collisions involved inattention or lack of due care, which may suggest that they had a lack of knowledge of the road," said the police spokesperson.

"There is no mention in any of the eight motor vehicle collision reports of a lack of signage at this location."

ROAD INVESTMENT: Independent Frome MP Geoff Brock is calling on the federal and state governments to "fast track" duplication of the Augusta Highway.

ROAD INVESTMENT: Independent Frome MP Geoff Brock is calling on the federal and state governments to "fast track" duplication of the Augusta Highway.

Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure

An inquiry made to the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) about lack of signage at the intersection was explained as meeting a higher standard than what the minimum requirement is for the location.

Working in collaboration with SAPOL major crash investigators, DPTI investigates contributing factors of fatal accidents on South Australian roads.

As part of their investigations, they assess the location's crash history, intersection design and sign layout.

The federal and state government have announced $250 million funding for upgrade works on the Princes Highway corridor stretching from the Victorian border through to Port Augusta.

Of the funding, $80 million has been allocated towards the duplication of the Augusta Highway between Port Wakefield and Nantawarra.

The duplication will continue from the state government's $124.5 million Port Wakefield Overpass and Duplication project, with detailed planning underway.

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Corey Wingard said the regional road network was "left to rot" under the former Labor government.

"Right across the state there are roads in desperate need of repair," he said.

"The Marshall Liberal government is fixing the mess left behind by the former government with unprecedented investment in our country roads.

"Together with the federal government, we're investing more than $1.1 billion in our regional roads and infrastructure to deliver safer, smoother journeys and to support and create jobs."

Independent Frome MP Geoff Brock

Independent Frome MP Geoff Brock is calling on the federal and state governments to "fast track" their commitment to duplicating the Augusta Highway and provide additional funding.

According to Mr Brock, 26 people died on the Augusta Highway between Port Wakefield and Port Augusta between 2015 and 2019, with more than 500 motor vehicle collisions, 100 serious casualties and an additional 300 people suffered minor injuries.

"It is imperative we see no more road deaths on this highway, which has become notorious for taking lives," he said.

"We need to see both levels of government - state and federal - get on board and commit to whatever funding it will take to improve this dangerous corridor."

Mr Brock said there should be a stimulus package rolled out over the next five years as part of a "regional growth strategy" to duplicate the highway.

In addition, he said the duplication of the highway will also cater to expanding opportunities with economic growth and renewable energy investment in the Upper Spencer Gulf and Eyre Peninsula.

"The Port Wakefield section is already being addressed, but we need to fast-track the duplication works and increase their scope to go from Port Wakefield to Port Augusta," he said.

"This highway carries up to 10,000 vehicles a day and has a mix of vehicles including cars, caravans, B-doubles and trucks."

Mr Brock said he was "pleased" to see the government's major works well underway at Port Wakefield and Port Augusta's Joy Baluch Bridge.

In agreement with Civil Contractors Federation of South Australia chief executive Phil Sutherland, Mr Brock said the corridor is "arguably one of the most important" for regional tourism and freight transportation in South Australia.

"The highway should have two lanes in both directions for its entire length, which will ultimately improve safety for all road users while still providing an arterial link for freight," he said.

This story A life lost on our roads is a life too many first appeared on The Recorder.

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