A mangled Give Way sign at the entrance to Woodford Lane, the result of a previous accident, is adorned with flowers left by friends at the scene of Thursday night’s fatal crash that took the lives of Todd Hepner, Jarah Blackett and Byron Nicholson.
A mangled Give Way sign at the entrance to Woodford Lane, the result of a previous accident, is adorned with flowers left by friends at the scene of Thursday night’s fatal crash that took the lives of Todd Hepner, Jarah Blackett and Byron Nicholson. JERAD WILLIAMS

Blame game over rat run

AUTHORITIES have failed to act on serious safety concerns raised by Byron Shire Council about the Ewingsdale intersection where three young men died last Thursday night.

While friends of the three killed say Woodford Lane is a popular 'rat run' for locals, a 2007 letter from council to residents obtained by The Northern Star confirmed this by clearly identifying it as a ‘short cut'  for northbound traffic from Byron Bay. This is contrary to the road's original designation as a service access for eight private properties.

The RTA was asked by council to provide comment at the time, but ‘failed to respond'. The study found that 300 cars used the service road daily at average speeds of close to 100km/h, though speeds of up to 150km/h have been recorded.

Since then, repeated calls by frustrated Woodford Lane residents to have the road's access to the Pacific Highway blocked have fallen on deaf ears.

An RTA spokesman said yesterday the authority was examining the feasibility of closing the highway access, but consultation with local residents, police and the council was needed before a decision could be made.

He could not comment on the 2007 study, but said that every death on NSW roads was a tragedy and all drivers, including learner and provisional drivers, must legally drive within the speed limit and obey the rules of the road.

Todd Hepner, 25, Jarah Blackett, 23, and Byron Nicholson, 22, of Ocean Shores, died when a southbound B-double truck smashed into their Subaru Liberty sedan as they were attempting to cross the Pacific Highway from Woodford Lane.

Police have confirmed the car was being driven by a 23-year-old L-plater.

They said one witness has come forward but were still keen to hear from anyone who could clarify the men's' movements before the accident.

They also confirmed the truck driver had passed initial drug and alcohol tests.

The chairman of Byron Shire Council's traffic committee, Cr Tom Tabart, said Woodford Lane had been an ongoing issue for the committee which had recommend the two highway accesses be closed off.

While the road is the council's responsibility, the RTA is responsible for highway access and the setting of speed limits.

“As I understand it there are issues with school bus routes and emergency vehicle access and that's the reason they're not closing it,” Cr Tabart said.

“They're not moving on it, and that's where it has remained.”

The Star spoke to several residents on Woodford Lane yesterday who asked to remain anonymous. All said the ‘rat running' and speeding was rife, and accidents at the site of Thursday's triple fatality were common.

One recent accident took out a crucial ‘Give way' sign at the intersection which the RTA said yesterday it would investigate.

“Everyone does it (the rat running), you hear them zooming up and down the road all the time,” one long-time resident said.

“There's no reason to do it and there's no reason why it has to be open at all. They can easily cross at the interchange.

“It's so dangerous. People who don't know the road coming into Byron think that's the turn off and they end up crashing into the railing.

“We've long said they won't close the road till someone dies.”

Another said they hold their breath every day waiting for the accidents.

“They zoom up through here and have to slam on the anchors just to get around that curve there,” he said.

“We've asked to get a (speed) limit on it but they won't do it.”


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