Island driving danger peaks as dry sets in
AS FRASER ISLAND prepares for an influx of Christmas holiday tourists, one island expert warns current conditions are dangerous for drivers.
Fraser Island Towing owner, Carolyn Elder, said driving conditions on the sand island were treacherous, with the hot and dry conditions adding to the risk.
“Due to the heat and a lack of rain the sand is quite soft,” Ms Elder said.
She said it was best to drive about three hours either side of low tide on the harder sand.
Ms Elder spoke to the Chronicle after a video clip of a vehicle that went up in flames on the island on Friday was circulated widely on social media.
The footage showed flames engulfing the vehicle on the beach, with thick black smoke billowing in strong winds.
It is understood the vehicle’s exhaust was ripped off after the driver hit a tree stump.
Ms Elder said it had been a busy three-week period for towing companies on Fraser Island, as soft sand puts extra pressure on vehicles and slower driving conditions often result in engines overheating or burning out.
“What we need desperately is good rainfall that will soak into the sand and really harden it up,” she said.
Ms Elder said inexperienced sand drivers or first-time visitors to the island should always ask for advice on how to best drive to the conditions.
“We often respond to vehicles with burnt-out clutches or 4x4s that have become stuck in the sand, but I have never seen a vehicle burst into flames like the one last week,” she said.
She reminded visitors it was illegal to use a rope to tow broken-down vehicles stranded on the sand.
Stick bars can be used by visitors to tow stranded vehicles.
“You can pull them up to the high-water mark and out of danger, but other than that it is best to call for help,” explained Ms Elder.
Meanwhile, firefighters are monitoring a blaze on the southern end of Fraser Island.
The fire, which started more than three weeks ago, has forced the closure of some roads.
Dillinghams Rd is closed until further notice.
The Hook Point road has been reopened from the Hook Point barge landing to the 11km mark.
The 11km to 18km mark is off-limits.
Authorities are urging tourists to drive to the conditions and to observe all signage, barriers and directions from rangers.