TRAGEDY: At least one tourist died and seven were injured after this four-wheel drive crashed on Fraser Island in October last year. A new study hopes to help create a new approach to driving safely on the island.
TRAGEDY: At least one tourist died and seven were injured after this four-wheel drive crashed on Fraser Island in October last year. A new study hopes to help create a new approach to driving safely on the island. Racq Careflight

New plan could make Fraser Island 4WDing much safer

FRASER Island's tragic beach driving past will pave the way for a ground-breaking approach to lowering off-road deaths.

With four deaths and 160 crashes involving 4WDs since 2002, the island has a shocking history when it comes to motoring safety.

University of the Sunshine Coast researcher Dr Nicholas Stevens hopes to change that with his ground-breaking three-year plan to make 4WDing safer.

Dr Stevens said the project would use a whole of community approach to create a government-backed set of standards for off-road driving.

Anyone with a regular licence can drive on the beach at up to 80kmh and police can enforce speeding and alcohol and drug laws.

"The beach is a really complex environment to drive on," Dr Stevens said.

"You can only drive two hours either side of low tide, it's got washouts and creeks all the way through it, it's got pedestrians across it, it's got fishermen on it, it's got shipwrecks, it's the island's airstrip - so while they are treating it like a regular road through enforcement and regulation it's nothing like a regular road."

"How could we manage it? How should we understand it?"

Dr Stevens said the aim was to look at every aspect of beach driving.

"Our view is that it's not just the driver's fault, there is a range of causational factors that have led to that accident happening across a range of different areas," he said.

"We expect that at a whole range of levels, both government and policy, right to day-to-day management of the beach, there will be changes that could be made to make it safer."

Dr Stevens has hopes the end result will influence off-road areas worldwide.

"About 75% of the world's roads are unsealed roads so this research can really have an impact - especially in poorer countries," he said.

"Can we make their roads safer without putting in a set of traffic lights or without paving them - because that is not a solution."

- APN NEWSDESK


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