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Residents fed up with black spot

Lynne Mowbray

Keith Rooke and his family have lived in their house on George Street, Ulmarra for the last 31 years and say they are fed up with the amount of accidents occurring in their village.

Mr Rooke, a retired truck driver, is not alone and a group of residents are banding together, to get something done.
The Pacific Highway is reduced to 50 kilometres per-hour through the town, but residents claim that the message is not getting through to the drivers.

The Rooke’s property is located on a bend, on the southern end of town, just before the end of the 50 km/h zone.
The last three accidents have happened on this same bend.
The last two occurred just over six weeks apart; in November last year, a car which had been involved in a police pursuit, was involved in a head on crash with another car which resulted in both cars bursting into flames and on January 2 this year, two trucks side swiped each other.

Mr Rooke said that he has seen at least 10 accidents over the years.
“We’re not out to break companies or cause the loss of licences; we just want them (drivers) to wake up and obey the rules,” Mr Rooke said.
“We are completely over the speeding traffic around the corner and the engine breaks (on the trucks) are so noisy.
“What we’d like to see is the 50 km/h speed limit sign on the southern side of the town, moved back a kilometre towards Grafton (to where the 80 km/h sign is now) and the 80 km/h sign also pushed back another kilometre as well.
“That will enable the trucks and traffic to be travelling near the right speed by the time they reach this corner, which is the village black spot,” he said.

Residents in the town have started to record the speed of traffic, with the use of a speed camera or radar gun (which has been calibrated) and the results are of great concern.
“Last week we clocked a B Double travelling through town from the north doing 90 km/h – 40 km/h over the speed limit,” Mr Rooke said.
Mr Rooke said that although speed is of great concern to the residents, fatigue appears to have played a big part, in the spate of accidents which have plagued the town.
“Several of the accidents were caused by the driver falling asleep,” he said.
“A truck accident on 14 November 2015 brought down power lines and closed the highway in both directions for 10 hours. The northbound B Double ended up on its side across the highway and totally obliterated a power pole.
“We had to get our house rewired after that one,” he said.

The Independent contacted Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis’ office last week, for a comment regarding the concerns of the residents in Ulmarra.
In a statement released from the MP’s office, it said that Mr Gulaptis met with John Alexander from Roads and Maritime Services on Tuesday (last week).
“They (the RMS) are investigating a number of options and subject to these investigations will propose some road safety measures within the next few weeks.
Under consideration, is moving the 50kmh sign at the southern end of Ulmarra further south to encourage traffic to slow down well before they reach the village as well as more frequent use of the mobile speed cameras and additional highway patrol’s.”

NB: During the course of this interview with some of the residents, the Independent witnessed several speeds in excess of 20 km/h over the speed limit. Most of traffic was clocked at around 60 km/h, with only a minority travelling at the legal speed limit of 50 km/h.

Above: These three images all occurred within metres of each other in Ulmarra’s notorious black spot. Top: The scene of the last accident which occurred in Ulmarra on January 2 this year, after two truck side swiped each other. Middle: A B Double which brought down power lines and closed the highway in both directions for 10 hours, back in 2015. Bottom: A head on which resulted in two cars being burnt out in November 2017. One of the vehicles had been involved in a police pursuit. Images: Contributed.
Above: Ulmarra resident of 31 years Keith Rooke stands at Ulmarra’s Black Spot where the last two accidents have occurred. Mr Rookes home is in the background. Image: Lynne Mowbray
Above Right: The plight of the Ulmarra residents to reduce the speed of traffic through their village has now spread across the country after filming by the Channel 9 TODAY program this week. Image: Lynne Mowbray
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