THE stretch of New England Highway between Tamworth and Uralla is the region’s deadliest road, data mapping has revealed.
This year, five people have died along the 80 kilometres that separate the two centres, compared to just one last year.
Head of Western Region Highway Patrol, Inspector Peter McMenamin, said there was no one cause for the increase in fatal crashes along the highway, which travels through the steep Moonbi Ranges.
“The highway itself is a fine stretch of road, it’s well marked and lined with no significant issues,” Inspector McMenamin said.
“Some of those crashes are still under investigation, so the cause has not been finalised.”
Across the region, 24 people have died in crashes on local roads this year, 15 of which have occurred on highways, including nine on the New England Highway and four on the Newell Highway.
With the traditionally busy travel periods of the October long weekend and Christmas holidays still to come, it’s feared the road toll will eclipse last year’s figure of 25 deaths.
Data from NSW Police shows fatalities in the New England LAC are down from nine this time last year to four, while Oxley LAC is up slightly, at 10 this year compared to nine. However Barwon LAC’s fatalities have shot up, with six so far this year, compared to zero at the same time in 2016.
This year the region has tragically seen a number multiple fatality accidents, including two double fatalities and a triple fatality involving three siblings.
Police are also alarmed by the number of people getting caught driving without a seatbelt. Across the New England, Oxley and Barwon LACs, 331 people have been hit with penalties for failing to buckle up.
“It’s astonishing that there is that amount of people, who on a daily basis don’t put a seatbelt on when they get in a car,” Inspector McMenamin said.
“It's a significant issue. If you have a serious crash without a seatbelt on, your chances of survival are reduced dramatically, while your risk of serious injury or death are significantly increased.
Across the three LACs, there has also been 239 people caught using a mobile phone while behind the wheel.
“Whilst we rely on them every day, the bottom line is a motor vehicle used in the wrong way is a lethal weapon and if taken for granted, it can kill anyone in it and anyone it impacts with,” Inspector McMenamin said.