Frances Creek Driver Reviver to close as death toll soars
10 January 2023
Last year the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) announced that more than half of Queensland’s Driver Reviver sites, including the newly refurbished Frances Creek site south of Ingham, will close this year because they no longer meet health and safety regulations and are financially unviable.
The Frances Creek Driver Reviver site is operated by volunteer community groups that provide refreshments and conversation to help reduce traveller fatigue, one of the fatal five factors for the devastating yearly road toll. The Frances Creek site is the only site along the 260-kilometre stretch of highway between Townsville and Innisfail.
Volunteer operator, Bruno Cantoni, said that in just four days over the Christmas holidays, over 200 visitors had used the driver reviver facility.
“It will be a shame if they shut the site down because a lot of money was spent setting it up and without it, a lot more travellers will simply stop for comfort breaks and not long enough to break up the fatigue before continuing on.
“At the moment a lot of people stop for coffee, have a conversation and many even fill out the small visitor cards we have available that give us feedback about their journey and their experience at the rest stop.
“The Ingham and Halifax Lions Clubs and the Hinchinbrook Rotary Club all service the driver reviver site and there is a lot of uncertainty about what is happening in the future. We have been told we can operate up until school resumes in January but after that it is unknown”.
Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) Deputy Leader and Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said that over a 20-year period from 2001 and 2021, a total of 92 lives had been lost on the Bruce Highway between Townsville and Innisfail.
“The number of deaths on this single stretch of the Bruce Highway demonstrates how imperative it is for the Frances Creek Driver Reviver site to remain operational.
“The figures from the last 20 years don’t include road deaths from 2022 but TMR recently announced that in 2022 a total of 299 lives were lost on Queensland roads which are the worst figures in more than a decade and is very sad to see.”
Transport and Main Roads Minister, Mark Bailey, labelled 2022 as a “tragic year” as he announced a roundtable discussion to occur early this year that will bring transport and accident experts, industry leaders, and key stakeholders together to “explore all options to improve road safety”.
“In the same breath as vowing to make Queensland roads safer and reminding travellers to take a break when they are tired, we have a Transport Minister that is supportive of shutting down essential driver reviver sites and taking away the option for travellers to have a good rest before continuing their journey.
“During the final week of Parliament in 2022, I asked the Transport Minister to provide the operational costs for the Frances Creek driver reviver and it was revealed that for the 2021-22 financial year the costs were $1,060, which is a pittance when you compare that to the cost of saving someone’s life.
“On average, over the past five years, the operational costs have been a little over $2,600 per year and when you compare that to the high-level fines we pay for traffic infringements – $431 for not stopping at a stop sign, or $575 for running a red light – that cost should easily be covered by the Department.
“The Frances Creek rest stop is a purpose-built rest stop facility and even if the driver revive component is shut down, there is still going to be ongoing maintenance costs for the dump point, public toilets and barbeques so I don’t understand why the volunteer staffed driver reviver cannot remain open.
“If TMR truly intend to explore all options to increase road safety, the roundtable discussion they intend to hold in the near future should also include representatives from the Driver Reviver community groups, and I will be urging TMR to extend an invitation to those groups.
“Over the coming weeks I will be speaking to TMR and the local community groups to discuss possible options moving forward so that the Frances Creek Driver Reviver can remain operational.