Survive the Drive: Why are there so many accidents at Giro?

Highway patrol supervisor sergeant, Michael Martin. Photo Rob Douglas
Highway patrol supervisor sergeant, Michael Martin. Photo Rob Douglas

Residents in the Gloucester region of rural New South Wales often wonder, why are there so many accidents at Giro?

There have been six motor vehicle accidents at the same location at the bottom of Nowendoc Mountain on the Thunderbolts Way, north of Gloucester, from January 2017 to October 2017, including a double fatality. 

This notorious section of road lays at the bottom of a 936 metre descent in just over 12 kilometres from the Carson’s Pioneer Lookout to Giro Road in Bretti.

Highway Patrol supervisor Sergeant, Michael Martin from Manning Great Lakes Local Area Command said these accidents have mainly been heavy vehicles burning out the brakes before reaching the bottom.  

The Thunderbolts Way runs a total length of about 290 kilometres from Gloucester to Inverell. It’s very hilly and winding as it passes across the Great Dividing Range and appears as the quickest way to the between the two locations, however it doesn’t tell drivers what type of road they are going to encounter.

Despite the numerous road signs alerting drivers of the steep descent, cautioning them to slow down and advising heavy vehicles or vehicle in tow, to use engine brakes, some drivers don’t heed the warnings.

Sgt Martin said the police report from most of the accidents since January state ‘loss of brakes’ as the reason for the accident occurring. 

He explained that drivers simply come down the mountain too fast, underestimating their speed. 

“In one accident, a car towing a caravan flipped on a corner, going down the mountain and hit a motorcyclist coming up,” he said.

The double fatality involved a furniture truck with the driver and passenger both dying at the scene. 

In one case, the driver told police that they had used the GPS to give them the quickest way from Inverell to Sydney and it led them down the Thunderbolts Way.

“All the accidents involved people from outside of the region,” Sgt Martin said. 

Not only is the road very steep, but the surface is in very bad condition.

“There has been a lot of work done to improve parts of the road, but there’s still work that needs to be done.”

Sgt Martin urged drivers to obey road signs and drive to the conditions. He explained how the state of the road can catch people off guard and people who are inexperienced or who aren’t familiar with the road are generally the ones involved in the accidents in this area.

Overall, Sgt Martin said that people can get complacent about driving and there are times of inattention which can result in speeding or accidents.

He said people lose their concentration as their mind wanders, or they can be on the phone and they aren’t as alert as they should be when driving. 

“People think that nothing will happen,” he said.