Russell Jaenke drives the Brisbane Valley Highway almost every day, and has seen first-hand the dangerous behaviour of impatient drivers.
Russell Jaenke drives the Brisbane Valley Highway almost every day, and has seen first-hand the dangerous behaviour of impatient drivers.

Driver fears for family’s life on dangerous state highway

A SOMERSET business owner, who makes regular use of the notoriously dangerous Brisbane Valley Highway, is worried his wife won’t make it home from the road one day.

Russell Jaenke, who uses the highway daily for his work, said people were “taking risks” when overtaking on the highway.

“I live just off the Brisbane Valley Highway, and with work, whichever way I go, I’ve got to start on the highway,” Tropic Blinds operator Mr Jaenke said.

“My wife goes to Ipswich, and I worry until she gets home, because one day there’ll be an accident.”

While the Somerset Regional Council’s focus has been on convincing the Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey to carry out a full safety upgrade, Mr Jaenke has suggested new overtaking lanes would help alleviate some of the road’s dangers.

READ MORE: Safety Review reveals highway dangers

“If you’re leaving Ipswich, you have the Blacksoil interchange, the next overtaking lane is Wanora. That’s a really short one, if you’re not quick you won’t get past,” he said.

“After that there’s no overtaking lanes for the next 80 kilometres until you reach the D’Aguilar Highway.”

Travelling south the Brisbane Valley Highway also offers very limited opportunities for drivers to overtake.

“If you come the other way, you’ve got the good long overtaking lane on the flats before Toogoolawah, and you’ve got one just on the other side of Toogoolawah, coming up the hill,” Mr Jaenke said.

He said the southbound overtaking lane at Wanora was also too short for overtaking efficiently.

The increasing amount of heavy traffic making use of the highway is the main reason he believes additional overtaking lanes are necessary.

“You might be sitting behind cattle trucks, you might be sitting behind caravans and grey nomads,” he said.

“There’s a lot of old people out there, and they sit on the highway at 80 kilometres an hour. You just can’t get around.”

REA D MORE: Why upgrades to the SH17 road are so crucial

Mr Jaenke said these conditions could lead to drivers becoming impatient, which could lead to more risky behaviour.

“It’s not uncommon to get someone who just pulls out and sits in the right-hand lane, and doesn’t overtake. That’s just sheer ignorance,” he said.

“People get impatient. We’re humans, we’re not patient people unfortunately. People just don’t stop and think how fast the car coming towards them is going, and how fast they’re going.”

Me Jaenke spoke about a particularly close encounter he remembers witnessing.

“The one that really sticks to my mind is the day I bought my last car. It was just getting on dark, I was on my way home from picking it up in Ipswich. In my mirror I saw a car pull out from a few cars behind me, and I looked ahead and I could see a car coming,” he said.

“I thought, ‘this guy’s not going to make it’ so I backed off so he could cut in, but he didn’t, he kept going. The oncoming vehicle, he hit the brakes and left the road, luckily it was a four-wheel drive, and this other guy just kept going.”

READ MORE: Road works to begin on unsafe highway

In addition to the risk to drivers, the conditions of the highway are coming at a cost to residents in other ways.

“When I first moved to that area, my motor vehicle insurance went up, because the postcode I live in is a high risk for accidents,” Mr Jaenke said.

“That’s not to say the people who live in that area have accidents, but because we’re on a major highway, and it’s a bad highway, there’s accidents, so we cop extra.”

He said there was ample space along the highway to install overtaking lanes.

“There’s plenty of spaces they could put an overtaking lane, because the road reserve is wide enough to slip another lane in,” he said.

“They need to be long, though, not like the short ones at Wanora, because only one car gets around, and that’s it.”

Mr Jaenke recently wrote to the Somerset Regional Council voicing his concerns, with the hope his letter could be tabled for future discussions between the council and other bodies involved in managing the highway.

“It’s costing residents more money through insurance, it’s costing people’s lives,” he said.

“It’s no use just reducing the speed, because that’ll create more impatient people. The logical thing to do is put in overtaking lanes, in the right spots.”

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