‘In-a-rush dirt track drivers are putting lives at risk!’

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Gibb River Road for grey nomads
The ‘Gibb’ may be challenging, but the scenery is stunning. PIC: Tourism WA

Grey nomad Ferg le Juge de Segrais explains why he believes that in-a-hurry grey nomads and other holidaymakers are a very bad mix with dirt tracks like the Gibb River Road … and the consequences could very well be tragic

My wife Chris and I recently turned 60 and have been driving the Gibb River and Kalumburu roads in the Kimberley since the late ’70s … and we’ve noticed a worrying change in driving behaviour.

Our real concern is that most grey nomads are putting themselves and other road users at risk with how they drive on dirt roads in what is a very remote area. When we first drove ‘the Gibb’ it was still primarily a beef road and most tourists had not heard of it.

Then, the road was extremely rough and speeds over 40km/h were near impossible unless you wanted to break your vehicle. Over the years we’ve noticed the various ‘improvements’ but unfortunately that has meant increased numbers of travellers.

Once upon a time most drivers did the right thing by slowing down for approaching vehicles, so the other vehicle would have relatively clear driving conditions. Fast forward to 2018 and the whole scenario is almost unrecognisable. The road is much wider and smoother now and that has meant most vehicles travel much faster. Add to that the huge increase in not just traffic, but also large 4WDs towing big off-road caravans, and things start to get interesting!

Most of the land along both sides of the roads is station country, generally running cattle without fences. Unfortunately, the vast majority of traffic travels up from metropolitan areas so most drivers have little experience driving on dirt roads, especially during the dry season when there has been little to no rain for months on end. The dust vehicles create when they are travelling at speed (100kp/h or even more) is extreme. Couple that with a large off-road caravan and the dust generated is more than doubled.

On our latest trip only a handful of the drivers passing from the opposite direction bothered to slow down at all. When the approaching vehicles flew past me it created near whiteout conditions and also showered us with stones, even though we had slowed to a near stop. If you drive into that dust you cannot see anything at all for several seconds until it settles.

What would happen if a Brahman bull weighing in excess of one tonne crosses the road in front of a vehicle towing a large caravan with combined weight near seven tonnes? And I’m not talking about what would happen to the bull here!

Don’t let the numbers of vehicles driving around fool you. This is extremely remote country with no mobile phone signal and medical assistance is a long time coming. Why the rush? Slow down and actually enjoy the stunning scenery as you drive along. Stop at the various landmarks and gorges. Fish, swim, and bushwalk.

Please don’t be one of those who say: “I did the Gibb in three days”! What would you see apart from the inside of your vehicle, corrugations and dust!

  • Have you found drivers on dirt tracks to be inconsiderate? Comment below

 

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12 Responses to ‘In-a-rush dirt track drivers are putting lives at risk!’

  1. Traveling around the Kimberley last year and using one or two dirt roads it is clear there a quite a number of other drivers that either have no idea about traveling in the outback or really don’t care. They don’t slow down, hog the center of the road, don’t want to pull over, maybe they don’t want to get their vehicle dirty! There again the driving standards have dropped in general.

  2. As with a lot of things in life the likes of the drivers referred to here have no cosideration for anyone else.It’s all about them. They are oblivious to the existance of others or to them others don’t count.

  3. We encountered the same heading up to the Cape, nice wide graded road, with vehicles doing 100km over crests straight at us on our side, WHY? and also not slowing to pass showering us with gravel, but we did survive luckily. Pete

  4. Try going past a road train at those speeds. Most roads have a crown on them and centre of gravity dictates that a road train stays in the middle of the road. Even on roads with a strip of bitumen it is better for the smaller, lighter vehicle to slow down, get off the bitumen rather than force the road train with up to 70 tyres flicking dust and stones right at your thin skinned aluminium caravan. Does nothing but cause holes and dents let alone the dust that a 53 metre truck kicks up.
    Could be another lot who brag they have done the big lap, in six weeks, but when asked what they saw they have nothing to report.

  5. From my experience it is not the four wheel drives with caravans which are the problem, but the foreigners in hired vans who speed and overtake in these unfamiliar conditions, as well as the tour group operators who are on a timeframe to get wherever. Lunatic behaviour in many cases.

    • Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. Following our previous visit 7 years ago I would have agreed with you however THIS time it was 4WDs towing off-road caravans together with drivers of various hired 4WD such as Britt, Apollo & the like. I guess during the period I’m talking about caravans have evolved to the extent that significant numbers of van owners now have an off-road variant.

  6. Yes agree with all of the above, they are the ones at the other end with something broken or caused one of us to break something getting out of there way.But it is equally dangerous on city streets now with them all either on the phone or texting.How many of you have nearly been run over or off the road. Take there licence I say . Cheers Stevo

  7. We found exactly the same thing when driving to and from Nhulunbuy on the Central Arnhem Hwy last month, and there were bulls around.

  8. A few years ago we travelled from Nocundra to Thargominda in a Falcon pulling a van. We suddenly met a couple of 4 wds coming towards us. WE pulled off the road and stopped. The leader stopped and told us there was 40 odd 4wds following. They came in little groups and quite a few refused to slow down or leave the road for my car and van. Turns out they were members of the police from interstate having a tag along. They even refused to hang around for a meeting arranged by the Police Sargent at Thargaminda who was going to give them a talk on travelling in outback.They didn’t bother waiting around.

  9. For lots of people ,the gibb like all the other iconic places has just become a bucket list must do thing… It never ceases to amaze me how fast and how far some people are prepared to travel in short times.. do they really get to see anything on the big loop ? Please slow down people..

  10. start with the tv ads always racing through creeks over hills.

  11. Reading all the above I would suggest that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. My recent trip up the Gibb and up to King Edward River showed me that nearly all vehicles drive to the limit of their vehicle irrespective of the road conditions and passenger comfort. I found that the worst offenders were the “tourist buses” that I call ” trucks”. I had one pass me near Drysdale Station and created an extraordinarily dangerous situation as I was showered with stone and was forced to drive blind. I was so angry that I challenged the driver at Drysdale Station and took photos of him. I later reported the incident to the company concerned and to their credit they investigated and reported back to me

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