Qld Fire Service north coast region assistant commissioner Ray Eustace, pictured outside the Maryborough Fire Station, says roads are not to blame for the escalating road toll.
Qld Fire Service north coast region assistant commissioner Ray Eustace, pictured outside the Maryborough Fire Station, says roads are not to blame for the escalating road toll.

Road accidents main job for firies

BATTLING blazes is no longer the main job for urban fire fighters on the Fraser Coast – attending road accidents now takes that spot.

Talking to Rotary Club of Maryborough Sunrise members at their breakfast meeting on Wednesday, Qld Fire Service north coast region assistant commissioner Ray Eustace said statistics showed an increasing trend in motor vehicle accidents. In fact, attending road crash rescues had overtaken fire fighting as the service’s “number one job”.

Three-hundred-and-thirty people died on Qld roads last year however hundreds more were involved in accidents that were not fatal. In Maryborough alone, there were 194 accidents and rescues, up from 174 the year before, where a fire appliance was in attendance.

Mr Eustace debunked the theory that roads were to blame for the trend.

“I’ve heard some people state that it’s the roads but I clearly don’t believe that. It’s got to be driver attitude in a large number of incidents.

“The population is growing each year and there are more cars on the road than ever before.

“Just look the work the government and Qld Police Service are doing with increased radars and patrols but we still have an increase every year in the road toll.

“To me it’s driver behaviour – speeding, negligent attitude and impatience to get to their destination.

“I’ve seen so many times where I’ve had a car overtake me going down to the Sunshine Coast, then I pull up at a traffic light in Gympie and the speeding vehicle is only two or three cars in front of me.”

Mr Eustace said his regular business trips to the Sunshine Coast were fraught with danger.

“I drive down there two days a week and would be overtaken by dozens of cars well exceeding the speed limit. I’ve witnessed so many near accidents. I’ve seen people crossing double white lines, overtaking on hills and I think ‘I’m going to meet my crew up the road ahead’.

“On two occasions I’ve called in jobs for all services. Near the Imbil turnoff I was just driving along and a car started swerving across the road in front of me and then went down an embankment; and there was also another incident the other side of Caloundra – a car coming up the road started cart wheeling in front of me.”

Mr Eustace believes driver education is the key to cutting the ever-increasing road toll for young drivers.

Getting the message to young drivers is a problem, however, with some school principals declining invitations to run a fire service awareness program.

“The numbers seem to be dropping off each year.

“Not all high schools are taking up the offer, which is somewhat disappointing – our program only goes for one hour.”

Mr Eustace said the Road Attitudes and Action Planning program involved talking to Year 12 students and showing them personal accounts of road accidents and rescue operations on video.

Mr Eustace said the increasing accident trend was so concerning to the fire service that it had introduced new technology and equipment to its trucks.

“We’ve enhanced our road crash rescue equipment on our trucks; in particular we have got the latest NCT 4050 cutters on all the trucks at our permanent stations and key stations on the highway north.”

However, driver education would go a long way towards preventing accidents in the first instance, he said.

“I think people have to take responsibility for themselves and their driving behaviour ... and I’d like to see greater support from schools in the region.”

BUILDING FIRE SAFETY AUDITS

CURRENT building safety regulations were particularly strict on high risk premises, Ray Eustace said.

 “Blocking fire equipment including hose reels, extinguishers or even the sign that says ‘hose reel’, for an individual, if they know who it was, is $1000 fine; for a company it’s $5000 fine.

 Mr Eustace said an individual who for example, illegally locked a nightclub door was liable to a $300 fine; a company would have to pay $1500 fine.

 “We have a program where all the nightclubs and hotels that trade at night as licensed premises are inspected a minimum of once a year.”



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