STEVE FARMER — 6 September 2013

You would think a police beat in the central-west Queensland town of Tambo would be a pretty quiet affair, but that isn’t necessarily the case, thanks to RVers.

Every tourist season the district sees a number of single-vehicle crashes involving grey nomads — and Sergeant Dominic Richardson, officer in charge of the Tambo Police Station, is someone who knows it only too well. He says it’s heartbreaking to see such personal tragedy end those much-anticipated trips of recently-retired nomads, especially when so many of them have only been on the road for a few weeks. In fact, he decided to do something about it which is why he came up with the “Stay on Track Outback” road safety initiative aimed at all travellers to Queensland’s outback — and particularly grey nomads.

The Stay on Track Outback website contains tips for safe outback travel, as well as links to trip planning and tourist information sites and emergency information. If you’re heading west it’s definitely worth a look.

For the unlucky nomads involved in accidents, inexperience is usually what brings a trip to a premature end. Often it’s either a lack of experience in towing a caravan or time spent driving on more remote roads, where conditions can vary widely and quickly.

Most of us live on the coastal belt where road conditions are generally pretty good. However, head well inland and you’ll have to contend with narrow dual and single-lane sealed roads, gravel roads, soft edges, bulldust, potholes, road works and bush fires to name just a few of the hazards. Then there’s wildlife, wandering stock and road trains more than 50m long. Merely driving “light engined” in these conditions can be a new challenge for many, but add a caravan and you can see how even experienced nomads come unstuck. Swerve to avoid a roo on a narrow sealed highway or a gravel road and you could easily lose control of your rig and roll both your van and tow vehicle.

Road trains are a particular hazard most drivers have never had to contend with and it pays to give all long, heavy or wide-load vehicles a wide berth when passing. The windage alone from these vehicles can destabilise even the best of caravan rigs. In this situation, it’s best to slow down and move well to the left (even stop, if it’s safe to do so) and let them have what bitumen there is. It’s much safer for you and the road train, and your vehicle and caravan won’t be showered with windscreen-breaking stones as the big rig roars past. And by the way, I wouldn’t even try to overtake one of these vehicles with a caravan in tow. Better to drop back and be patient. Most of these truckies are considerate drivers and will let you pass as soon as conditions allow.

It’s also sobering to keep in mind that, if you do have an accident out there, the long distances between towns can mean that emergency services may take a considerable time to reach you. It could be a long, painful, traumatic and possibly life-threatening wait for help.

While many nomads involved in accidents are from the southern states, Sergeant Richardson doesn’t let his fellow Queenslanders off lightly. In an ABC radio interview the policeman quipped “Queenslanders are better at football, but not necessarily better drivers on outback roads.”

Stay on Track Outback: it’s a message we all need to remember if we’re heading west.

YOUR SAY: Tell us about your outback driving safety tips or have you got any scary moments you would like to share? Write in and let us all know – it might just save someone’s life or at the least prevent an untimely end to a long-await trip.


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