DRIVEN TO DEATH
M1 congestion raises risk of fatal frustration, says RACQ
CRUNCH TIME: Crashes such as this one, in which a truck caught fire on the M1 at Nerang, can cause traffic to grind to a halt. Picture: Jerad Williams TRAFFIC congestion on the M1 is taking a tragic toll on Queenslanders’ lives as well as their time.
Analysis by the RACQ shows the number of fatalities and injuries on the Pacific Highway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast is higher than would be expected on a road of that quality.
Six people have been killed and more than 1500 injured in crashes between the Gateway Motorway interchange and Tugun in the past 3½ years, Department of Transport and Main Roads figures reveal.
“Congestion in itself can cause crashes. Congestion can kill,” RACQ chief communications officer Paul Turner said.
Stop-start traffic and queues at on and off ramps raise the risk of multi-vehicle nose-to-tail collisions.
“And congestion can drive poor driver behaviour. People get frustrated and angry and do drastic things,” Mr Turner said.
The three sections of the M1 – from the Gateway Motorway merge to the Logan River; Logan River to Smith St; and Smith St to the NSW border – have been rated the three worst routes in Queensland for accident risk by the Australian Road Assessment Program. All three also feature in the worst 10 across the nation.
Between 2012 and 2016, 1131 casualty crashes occurred on the 79km stretch, including 17 deaths. That was despite the fact the three sections all score highly for inherent design and safety features.
“The M1 is a brilliant road. It is simply struggling under the sheer volume of traffic using it,” Mr Turner said. “It’s a major part of the national highway network – linking the third- and sixth-largest cities in the country – but it is also a commuter route.
“It is under stress and strain. We continue to see huge population and density growth at each end of it.
“It’s a vicious cycle. Every crash impacts every driver on that road. It’s not only about the tragic loss of life and injuries, but it shuts down a major highway,” Mr Turner said.
Construction of a $200 million project to improve the M1/Gateway merge at Eight Mile Plains and Rochedale South will begin after April’s Commonwealth Games, and work is under way on a $180 million widening of the motorway between Mudgeeraba and Varsity Lakes.
During November’s state election campaign, Labor committed $206 million towards widening the Varsity Lakes to Tugun section – making the motorway at least six lanes all the way to the border – as long as the Federal Government funds the rest of the $1 billion cost.
But the Palaszczuk Government refused to match an LNP promise to build a four-lane alternative to the M1 along a reserved 36km corridor between Nerang and Stapylton.
The RACQ says the M1 upgrades, the new road, and improved public transport are all needed to keep up with demand.
Speed limits will be lowered on the M1 from March 1 as part of pre-Commonwealth Games measures but will revert to normal on April 17.