Fraser tag-alongs to be legal
FRASER Island 4WD operators are feeling the heat.
After a crisis week where a Japanese tourist died and transport inspectors staged a safety blitz on hire vehicles crossing to the island one operator said it was as though they were lined up against the wall and the firing squad was taking aim.
But while the microscope is on them it’s been revealed that the real culprit of Sunday’s fatality may have been the lack of a seatbelt.
Transport Minister Rachel Nolan told the Chronicle that initial reports from the accident indicated the vehicle rolled three times and that the passengers were not wearing seatbelts.
“It is not my intention to rush to make legislative changes affecting everyone if something as basic as seatbelts are not being used,” she said.
Fraser Coast 4WD Operators Association president Dave Robertson added that the answer to increased safety on Fraser did not lie in banning all international drivers.
“Over the years many privately owned 4WDs and vehicles hired by Australians have rolled on the island.
“So this week you might ban international drivers but next week John Smith from Caboolture could roll a 4WD.”
Another safety option, he said, would be to only allow unrelated backpacker groups that are assigned to a vehicle to drive on the island with a professional driver.
“We already assess the behaviour and language abilities of backpackers coming in to hire vehicles and if we have concerns we suggest they go on a conducted tour.
“But we could also build in the stipulation they must only travel in the hire vehicle with a professional driver.”
In a week of bad news, good news arrived yesterday when the Chronicle learned that tag-along tours can operate legally by June 30 next year.
“We intend to issue commercial activity agreements by December 31, which will govern 4WD hire operators to conduct tag-along tours,” said Terry Harper, senior director Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.
“Ten out of 12 operators have already lodged applications while some operators already have accredited drivers and it is understood intend to begin tag-along tours almost immediately after their agreements are in place.”
Yesterday Mike Dwyer, the owner of Aussie Trax, the company that hired out the Landcruiser that rolled on Sunday, killing the tourist, said he was unable to speak publicly until he had met with police on Friday.
“I spoke with Mike this morning,” Mr Robertson told the Chronicle.
“He is waiting for the police report as we all are.
“An accident of this nature is traumatic and upsetting to everyone and particularly to the business operator involved.
“Mike is a founding member of our association and has always been very proactive in promoting safety in the industry.”
Yesterday afternoon Mr Robertson phoned Transport Minister Rachel Nolan with a compromise proposal to heighten safety for hirers of 4WD vehicles.
“We’re aware market forces will decide what customers buy – basically the cheaper option will prevail – so to be cost comparative and therefore safer across the board, we’re saying a good option is to go back to seven seats in hire vehicles, even down to six, and raise the number from seven to nine in tag-along tour vehicles.”
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