Nightmare on the Nullarbor … driver slams into truck

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Overturned truck warning for grey nomads
In the dark, Darren Beer says he had no time to react to the overturned truck on the highway. PIC: Darren Beer/ABC

A horrifying accident on the Nullarbor has once again highlighted the dangers of driving at night and the sheer unpredictability of Outback travel.

Although no grey nomads were involved, the details of the incident will send a shiver down the spine of all who venture onto our highways and byways.

Darren Beer, 46, was driving along a pitch-black Eyre Highway at 110kph earlier this month when his high beams lit up the underbelly of an overturned truck.

“Out of nowhere, no time to react … the only time I knew it was there was when I was on it,” Mr Beer told the ABC. “It was like a brick wall … then that was it, just a bounce — I remember the pain.”

Mr Beer had shattered his foot, broken his elbow in half, fractured his ribs and snapped his kneecap … but that wasn’t his only concern.

“My car had actually caught fire,” he told the ABC. “Luckily the people that were there had a fire extinguisher and were able to put that out, because if they hadn’t I believe I wouldn’t be telling the story.”

The former tow truck driver was trapped in his car for more than two hours waiting for emergency crews to arrive from the small mining community of Norseman. He was eventually airlifted to Perth.

The truck had reportedly overturned some 30 minutes earlier, blocking both lanes of the highway. The truck driver and passenger suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.

Mr Beer told the ABC that the truck’s dark underside blended in with the road and there were no lights working on the damaged vehicle. He said his ordeal highlighted a need for an emergency lighting system to trigger in the event of a crash, or something as simple as a reflective item to be installed on the underside of heavy vehicles.

The idea has been given some early support.

“On face value, that seems like a really good idea and certainly appears to have some merit, so I’ll be discussing this with the road safety commissioner,” WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts told the ABC.

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18 Responses to Nightmare on the Nullarbor … driver slams into truck

  1. 110 on the Nullabour at night -you kidding? That in itself screams “I’m and idiot”. Driving to conditions would dictate that on a road where you can encounter anything from rabbits to camels 110 kph at night is just stupid, what does he want reflectors on the bellies of dead camels and cows as well?

    • I agree. The most basic rule of driving at night is to always drive at a speed that allows you to stop within the distance illuminated by your headlights

  2. I’d say he wasn’t paying attention if you can’t see the road you should slow down or stop. You may not see the car but you should definitely notice that the road disappeared.

  3. Never travelling country roads that late never know what animals you could hit or something like this. Australian country roads never safe after dusk or in dark

  4. Maybe driver fatigue played a part? I’m just having trouble wondering why you’d be travelling at night on the Nullabor, let alone at that speed, and also how he did not see the truck or activity at the recent crash site as the article states that people were there who assisted the car driver – Sheez, he could have killed them!

  5. Firstly, a very unfortunate incident for Mr Beer, and fortunately he survived to tell the story.
    The Eyre Highway is not a very nice place to be driving in a car at night because of the many hazards- I have driven it in various trucks over the years and have come across a few accidents.
    Early one morning I arrived at the scene of a truck that had run into a mob of camels east of Border Village. The driver had injured his knee as the cab was pushed in. I made sure he was ok and took him back up the road to inspect the site and make sure the road was clear of the remains of 5 or 6 camels. The previous year a driver was killed in the same location, running into the mob of camels.
    A great idea, put reflectors on the bottom of trucks, and on the top as well- not very practical due to the sheer number of trucks on the roads and the very small number of roll-overs that completely block the road.
    A better idea might be to be road aware, drive to the conditions and expect the unexpected. ( The conditions might just be having a properly equiped vehicle if you must drive on isolated highways at night- a good set of driving lights?)
    I have gained this wisdom, having driven millions of kilometres around the country.
    Keep the shiney side up!

  6. Definitely not paying attention. Even on low beam the headlights would have shown the truck with adequate time to brake. There’s no point blaming the road, the outback, the speed or anything else. This is pure driver error.

    • Sorry I can’t agree there, maybe not paying attention was a factor but your statement about having enough visibility even on low beam to provide adequate time to brake is “clearly” incorrect. In my experience driving at 110kmh on a dark night puts your braking distance well beyond what you can see in your headlights.

  7. Sheesh, what an eejit!! Driving that fast at night on a country road is asking for trouble. He’s lucky, that’s all I can say.

  8. As an ex “”Knight of the Road”” ie: Travelling Sales Rep

    The rulefoir the Knght of the Roads
    Was to never travel at NIGHT.
    I guess that there endth the lesson….. so to speak..

  9. I’ve driven the nulla 3 times, all in the daylight. I jad to slow down for a few emus having a rest in the middle of the road and they didn’t want to move for any coaxing we tried. Anyone who wants to travel at night out there without sufficient lights is asking for trouble, especially at 110kmph! Seriously, use your head!

  10. I can’t believe all these negative statements without knowing all the circumstances. There are reasons for travelling at night. I remember in the mid 1960, almost going into the side of a train one night and no I was’t tired but with everything black even on high beam it did not stand out until almost on it.

    • I agree Bill. Easy to knock when you are retired and don’t have time restrictions.. When I was younger I drove the Nullarbor a number of times at night, two up shared the driving and hit one big wether. Thankfully had a roo bar on the HR. I lived in the W A wheatbelt and we drove a lot at night so thought it was normal. And by the way it was mph
      back then. nothing under 80 mph.

  11. Bloke shudnt been doin that speed at nite.

    Truckies must carry portable triangular reflective warning/hazard signs and must place them appropriately to warn motorists of any danger.
    Travel safe…avoid night driving at our age. Cheers.

  12. I won’t comment on a driver doing 110kph at night on the Nullarbor as I share the sentiments of many before me. However, I ask why didn’t the people at the crash site have the reflectors out that all large trucks must carry or have their vehicle hazard lights on. They had 30 mins to do it.

    • It indicates that they were injured. They may have taken some time to get out of the vehicle.

  13. In Europe ALL vehicles MUST carry reflective vests for All persons in the vehicle plus a reflective triangle. I still have mine over the back of my drivers seat with the triangle down beside me.

  14. Without know all the circumstances it is a bit harsh to be critical of any of the parties involved. Through necessity I regularly travel outback roads in central NSW at night and have been doing so for the last 25 years. Sure driving at night brings a different set of hazards to the table but it also significantly reduces the amount of traffic which again has its own set of issues to deal with.

    Personally I see this as a bit of an ‘on the bright side’ story, everybody survived and it would appear that people not involved in the crash rose to the occasion and rendered appropriate assistance, not always the case!

    Glad everybody was able recover and be able to tell the story.

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