Hume Highway's worst blackspots revealed

Elizabeth Vidler's son, Christian died in a crash on the Hume Highway in September. He left four children behind. From left to right: Declan 13, Tarmia 8, Liz Vidler, Marquisha 11, Lauchlan, 15, at their Bradbury home.  Photo: Louise Kennerley
Elizabeth Vidler's son, Christian died in a crash on the Hume Highway in September. He left four children behind. From left to right: Declan 13, Tarmia 8, Liz Vidler, Marquisha 11, Lauchlan, 15, at their Bradbury home. Photo: Louise Kennerley

It has been 95 days since Elizabeth Vidler's life was turned upside down.

She lost her youngest son, Christian Vidler, in a crash on the Hume Highway in September this year, leaving his four children without both parents.

"I was numb when Christian's father told me. I still am to this day," Mrs Vidler said. "I just started screaming, 'no, not my Christian, not my Christian'."

Christian, a 40-year-old Canberran,was a passenger in his brother's car when it crashed into the rear of a B-double truck, about 10 kilometres north of Marulan at Paddys River. The pair were travelling to Sydney for an appointment. Christian's brother has now been charged with dangerous driving over the 5am accident on September 27. He faces court in Goulburn on February 14.

Christian Vidler was one of 11 peoplekilled in 2017 on the Hume Highway from Camden, just south of Sydney, to the Wargeila Road overpass at Yass, a stretch of 249 kilometres.

Over 10 years, 68 people have been killed on the stretch, with the turn-off to Canberra where the Hume meets the Federal Highway one of the worst spots.

In the latest death on the Hume, a 72-year-old woman died after her van and a truck collided south of Gunning on Thursday morning. Her death came amid tragic holiday period on NSW roads.

Emergency services personnel attend a crash scene on the Hume highway near Oolong where a female driver of a van died on Thursday morning after accidentally clipping a truck. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Emergency services personnel attend a crash scene on the Hume highway near Oolong where a female driver of a van died on Thursday morning after accidentally clipping a truck. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Mrs Vidler is now looking after Christian's children, aged 8, 11, 13 and 15, at her home in Sydney's southwest suburb of Bradbury after their mother died early in 2017, before Christian's accident. She said her son would have done anything for his children, who thought he was "magical".

"It's been hard for the children, they found out they lost their dad, and earlier this year they lost their mum. They kept saying 'we've got nothing now, we've got nothing'," Mrs Vidler said.

"It's mind-numbing and changes you. I've had to try to be strong for the kids, you just have to think about them."

Mrs Vidler said Christian was trying to turn his life around when the incident happened. She said the impact went well beyond her immediate family, affecting everyone involved, including emergency service personnel.

"It affects people so differently and each person suffers differently. It cripples you."

Acting Superintendent Andrew Koutsoufis, who heads the Hume area command, based in Goulburn, was confronted by the reality of policing in the area on his first day as commander in 2016.

"My very first shift ... dealing with a local 27-year-old Goulburn male losing his life reaffirmed that road safety would be a priority of mine," he said.

"It was a very sobering one and hit home the massive issue that is road safety in our area.

Acting Superintendent Andrew Koutsoufis is frustrated by the number of motorists risking their lives on the region's roads. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Acting Superintendent Andrew Koutsoufis is frustrated by the number of motorists risking their lives on the region's roads. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Acting Superintendent Koutsoufis, who has 25 years on the force, said the impact of a road death sent "shockwaves" through a rural community, hitting the whole community hard.

"I'm just frustrated myself. We put so many messages out and unfortunately people don't listen," Acting Superintendent Koutsoufis said.

"There are rest areas all along the Hume Highway - take advantage of them. I mean, what more can you do to a straight stretch of road?"

Fatigue, speeding, drink driving and improper use of seatbelts were consistently the biggest killers on roads, he said.

In the Hume area there have been more than 150 fatal crashes over 10 years, including on regional roads. The Hume Highway, though, was the scene of by far the biggest proportion, representing 31 per cent of fatal crashes. The Barton Highway is the second worst spot in the area, at six per cent of fatalities, followed by the Old Hume Highway at four per cent.

Gabrielle Stewartand Berlio O'Brien, both in their 70s, died when their sedan collided with a southbound semi-trailer at Sutton Forest about 6.30pm on July 19.

Natasha Stewart said the Hume Highway required improvements to prevent further loss of life, including new underpasses or overpasses so cars were not first forced to cross the highways to turn right, extra overhead lighting at intersections, vegetation management, and extra signs to warn of traffic entering ahead.


"I will be delighted if some positives can come out of this tragedy," she said. "I would like to see all entrances to highways and freeways have mandatory overhead lighting.

Gabrielle Stewart, who was killed on the Hume Highway in July, 2017. Photo: Supplied

Gabrielle Stewart, who was killed on the Hume Highway in July, 2017. Photo: Supplied

"Regular inspection of intersections should be conducted to ensure that the growth of suckers and grass is maintained to ensure good vision.

"Overpasses are used on most freeways but in rural areas sufficient upgrades have not taken place."

The Kings Highway from Canberra to the coast has seen 28 deaths over 10 years. In 2017, to the end of November, there were two fatal crashes. The 48 kilometres from Bungendore to Braidwood is the deadliest stretch of road to the coast, with 14 deaths. The 47 kilometres from Northangera to Nelligen saw 11 fatalities.

On the Hume Highway, the worst spot for crashes over the past decade is the 46km from Berrima to Marulan, which claimed 15 lives, 10 of them at Marulan.

The area around the turn-off from the Hume to Federal Highway has seen six deaths.


Acting Superintendent Koutsoufis said most of the fatalities he saw on the Hume were on the stretch between Mittagong and the outer reaches of Goulburn, with more than a third in the Southern Highlands section.

Speed was the main factor in 40 per cent of fatal crashes in the Hume command. In the past year, the Hume command issued 12,291 speeding tickets. Of that, only 97 infringements were given to heavy vehicles.

"These towns are the furthest from both Sydney and Canberra, and that's when fatigue starts to hit and people start making mistakes and bad decisions.

Christian Vidler, who died in September 2017 when the car in which he was a passenger crashed into the rear of a B-double truck. Mr Vidler was 40 when he died.  Photo: Supplied

Christian Vidler, who died in September 2017 when the car in which he was a passenger crashed into the rear of a B-double truck. Mr Vidler was 40 when he died. Photo: Supplied

"Have a rest - take advantage of all of the truck stops, buy a chocolate or an ice-cream at a service station, take a break, stretch your legs and just drive carefully. It's a simple message."

Mrs Vidler urged drivers to take care and think about the impact it would have on loved ones.

"Cut it out. You've got no idea of how wide a traffic accident affects not just the immediate family but right across, it has such a far reaching affect,"

"People, they just don't think that it's going to happen to them, but it can and it's just awful.

"You wouldn't want your family to go through what we're going through, it's just devastating."

- With Victoria Lee, Madeline Crittenden, Michael Inman, Ellen McCutchan

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