Lisa Milnes-Thurling says her family will always be touched by crashes involving trucks.
After losing her late husband Brian – a well-known truck driver – to a workplace accident eight weeks after the birth of their daughter Samantha, Lisa said the highway by-pass of their Telegraph Point home can’t come soon enough.
“The spate of recent crashes really does touch us as a family,” she said.
“Brian was lost seven years ago and Samantha continues to ask questions about him.
“She is very sensitive to crashes, particularly when they involve trucks. She will follow the stories and ask plenty of questions. She always wants to know how the drivers involved in a crash are going too.”
Lisa said the recent highway truck crash meant the school bus didn’t arrive at Samantha’s school at its normal time.
“Those kinds things upset her. She said to me that ‘the driver is someone’s daddy’ and that she ‘hopes he is alright’.
“She does get a bit upset, as we all do.”
Lisa and her husband Adam Thurling operate their own interstate trucking business. They regularly talk about reasons behind accidents.
They both believe that a loss of concentration, road works and mixed speed zones must be considered the cause of a majority of accidents, which comes back to driver error.
“Adam’s seen a lot of accidents on the road in his 26 years as an owner-operator,” she added.
Lisa said the family regularly speak with neighbours about accidents and close calls on the highway around their immediate area.
Those kinds things upset her. She said to me that ‘the driver is someone’s daddy’ and that she ‘hopes he is alright’.
The Roads and Maritime Services has confirmed that in the five years to 2016, there have been 54 crashes recorded on the section of the Pacific Highway from north of the intersection with Hastings River Drive to Telegraph Point.
An RMS spokesperson said safety improvement work have been carried out on this section of the existing highway.
“The Australian and NSW governments have invested $3.3 billion to upgrade the Pacific Highway between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour,” the spokesperson said. “In coming months, Telegraph Point will be bypassed as part of the Oxley Highway to Kundabung upgrade, which will improve safety for all road users.”
The spokesperson also confirmed that RMS is continuing to assist NSW Police with its investigation into the September 7 crash at Telegraph Point.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further,” the spokesperson said.
RMS says it does not support the use of Maria River Road as a suitable alternative when there is a highway crash in that vicinity.
Regardless of the RMS view, drivers still utilise the unsealed Maria River Road as an alternate route if the highway is blocked.
Chief Inspector Bruce McGregor from the State’s Traffic & Highway Patrol Command said he urged drivers to take extra care when there are changed conditions or road works.
“Drive to the conditions and pay close attention to what they are doing behind the wheel,” he said.
“Tiredness and inattention are key factors in many crashes, especially for those driving long distances. Please take a break if you are feeling tired.
“We will continue to patrol and enforce all speed limits, including road works, as a deterrent for all drivers in order to save lives on our roads.”
Northside Progress Association president Kingsley Searle said there was increased traffic using Maria River Road following the September 7 truck crash.
“The road’s condition was horrific,” he said. “Visibility was zero because of the number of vehicles and trucks coming down the road. The deterioration of the road, in my view, was enormous.
“While I couldn’t estimate the number of extra vehicles on the road, the two ferries operated continuously throughout the day just to keep up with demand (from vehicles using Maria River Road to bypass the accident).”
Mr Searle confirmed a joint application between Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and Kempsey Shire Council had been submitted for funding to seal the Maria River Road.
Lisa Milnes-Thurling has set up a Facebook page honouring Brian ‘Weasel’ Milnes on behalf of their three children, Katelyn, Cyal and Samantha.