'My husband and I could not get anybody out of the car'

JULIEANNE Gilbert has relived the harrowing moment she watched helplessly as five people died in a fiery head-on crash in front of her.

The Mackay MP told Queensland Parliament she and her husband Frank had been travelling to Bowen on the Bruce Highway in May 2005 when a driver moved out from behind a bus to see if they could pass.


"A utility was coming in the other direction," Mrs Gilbert said. 

"This caused a head-on collision right in front of my car. The driver of the ute died on impact.

"In the young driver's car were her mother, sister and a family friend. It flipped over and caught alight.

"My husband and I could not get anybody out of the car."

Mrs Gilbert was speaking yesterday to commend the Road Safety and Other Matters Amendment Bill passed at the regional sitting of parliament in Townsville.

The Bill will bring forward legislative reforms designed to reduce road trauma in Queensland, and Mrs Gilbert said the House was committed to reducing fatalities and injuries on the road. Its introduction followed Queensland Road Safety Week last week.

The MP's thoughts were also with the family of a young man who died in a crash in Mackay last month.

"Road statistics get reported in the news all the time," she said. "The effect and the horrific impact need to be taken on board by everyone.

"On August 23 we woke in Mackay to read, splashed across our local media, this story - 'My heart is broken': Tributes for teen killed in crash.

"My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jack Dunwoodie. I hope that the laws we pass in this parliament today spare other families, friends and communities of the pain of losing a loved one."

Mrs Gilbert said road crashes could happen at any time and often the response from the community was 'it's the road's fault'.

"Roads do not kill or cause accidents; it is the driver of the vehicle not driving to conditions," she said.

"When we all drive to conditions, fewer accidents will occur and people will not have their lives turned upside down.

"Road deaths and accidents need to be reduced. We want our loved ones to be with us."

Mrs Gilbert said she and her husband had been personally affected by the crash they witnessed.

"The emergency workers who attended had been to many fatal crashes that year and they were emotionally fatigued and wrung out," she said.

"All of these deaths could have been avoided."

She said improvements had been made to the Bruce Highway between Mackay and Townsville.

"There are many more overtaking lanes. There are also wide centre lanes so you can look out to see if there is something coming and pass safely," she said. "Our roads are getting better.

"Death and serious injury on Queensland roads costs Queensland more than $5 billion every year and causes devastation to individuals, families and the broader community.

"Queensland's Road Safety Strategy 2015-21 sets an ambitious target to reduce deaths and serious injury by 30 per cent by 2020, meaning that we need to reduce our road fatalities."

This year, compared to 2018, there have been eight fewer deaths on Mackay Police District roads.

Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert at the protest for improved pay and conditions for child safety officers.
Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert. Emma Murray

Mackay Road Accident Action Group chairman Brett Hoskin said driving a vehicle would be the most dangerous thing a person could ever do.

"The majority of crashes result from making the wrong choice or judgment behind the wheel," he said.

"The road is the road... what we have is what we have. The driver makes a choice on how fast they go and what conditions they drive in. Regardless of the condition of the road, it comes back to the driver."

Mr Hoskin agreed with Mrs Gilbert that the wide centre lanes in the region were extremely effective.

"I'm quite confident the State Government is doing a lot to reduce the fatalities and serious injuries," he said.

"They could still do more."