Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 18/11/2000, pg. 7

THE white crosses accompanied by floral tributes — markers to the highway dead — are dotted every few kilometres along the Gatton bypass.

This 20km piece of bitumen is part of the Warrego Highway linking Brisbane with Toowoomba.

The death rate in accidents on the bypass is more than three times that on any other stretch of the highway.

Now emergency services and a state politician have called for action.

Eight people died in the 80 accidents on the bypass between 1990 and 1998. This compares with five deaths in 101 accidents between Helidon and Toowoomba and 12 deaths in 280 accidents on the road from Ipswich to Gatton.

Witnesses to the latest bypass tragedy on Thursday — a head-on collision that killed three people from Brisbane — said one of the vehicles involved became airborne before rolling down an embankment and landing upside down about 10m from the road. Michael and Margaret Foote, of Indooroopilly, died instantly.

Mary Druery, of Carina, a passenger in the other car was dead when she was cut from the wreckage.

The only survivor of the crash was her husband, Arthur Druery, who is in Toowoomba Base Hospital with leg and chest injuries.

Police call the road a death-trap.

An officer who was at Thursday’s accident scene said his own family never used the bypass because it was too dangerous.

Another said the road should have four lanes like the remainder of the highway to Brisbane.

Ambulance south-western region area manager Glen Maule, who has attended most of the crashes on the bypass, said he believed there was no margin for error on the road.

He likened the road to the so-called Marlborough Stretch of the Bruce Highway between Rockhampton and Mackay. It had a similar reputation for claiming the lives of fatigued drivers.

Opposition spokesman on police and Member for Toowoomba South Mike Horan yesterday called for federal funding to make the bypass four-lanes.

“The real problem is that the highway from Brisbane to Toowoomba is a four-lane highway except for that section,” he said.

“That piece of road carries the heaviest tonnage of freight in Australia. There are so many trucks, and almost invariably there is more than one person killed in crashes.”

A spokesman for Federal Transport Minister John Anderson said duplication of the bypass was not on the existing National Highway Forward Plan.

However, the plan was being reviewed and a new plan for the next four years would be completed in the next fortnight.

Police are worried about the upcoming Christmas holiday and have appealed to motorists to drive carefully.

Copyright 2000 / Courier Mail