NRMA audit: we are bad

By CRAIG McTEAR

COFFS HARBOUR is in the bad books when it comes to Pacific Highway accident rates.

An NRMA Motoring and Services three-year highway audit lists Coffs Harbour (107 crashes, one fatality and 65 injuries) as the third-worst length of highway.

It is beaten only by the Ballina section (121 crashes, four fatalities and 70 injuries) and Banora Point (127 crashes, two fatalities and 61 injuries).

The audit also shows a 43 per cent increase in traffic volumes through Coffs Harbour. This compares with 74 per cent for Byron Bay and 79 per cent at Chinderah.

NRMA Motoring and Services director, Wendy Machin, said a bypass of Coffs Harbour 'has really got to go ahead', but her organisation was not going to enter the debate over the preferred route.

While progress on upgrading the highway had improved, 442km of the 680km from Hexham near Newcastle to the Queensland border was yet to be done, she said.

"Sixteen years after 55 people tragically lost their lives in a fatal crash on the Pacific Highway, 40 per cent of the road is still only one lane in each direction without safe overtaking opportunities," Ms Machin said.

"That's not good enough.

"Both the Federal and State governments have upped their spending on the highway and we have seen some progress, but we have a long way to go yet.

"Over the past three years, only two per cent of the highway has been upgraded to four-lane divided carriageway, and the section between Hexham and Karuah is the only part that has been fully upgraded.

"This is one of Australia's most critical roads and it is incomprehensible that so much of it is still not up to an acceptable standard."

Ms Machin said over the past three years, 120 people had died on the highway, with 1772 casualties.

Other audit findings include:

65 per cent of the route is signposted at 100km/h;

the speed limit changes 100 times between Hexham and the Queensland border (one change every 6.8km);

overtaking is not permitted for 44 per cent of the route (300km); and

the number of speed camera sites has doubled to 16.



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