LOCALS fear for their lives and emergency services personnel are scratching their heads after a surge in serious car crashes over the past 12 months.
In that time there have been 17 collisions, including three deaths in the hinterland areas of Mullumbimby, Bangalow, Coorabell, Goonengerry and Federal.
Most drivers were aged 17-20 and 30-39 with many survivors having serious head and internal injuries and major fractures.
"The number of fatalities and personal injuries has significantly increased over the past 12 months when compared to the past decade," Tweed Byron Highway Patrol Sergeant Richard Baxter said.
With accidents happening "at all times of the day and night, across all age ranges and not just on the one road", Sergeant Baxter said investigations had been unable to pinpoint the exact reason for the rise.
"While speed has been a factor in a couple of those incidents, at the end of day we're dealing with hundreds of kilometres of winding, potholed, shaded roads that are zoned 80 and 100," he said.
Senior Sergeant Bill Darnell said local highway patrol resources were focused on the hinterland.
"The obvious answer to why the Byron hinterland is a crash 'hot spot' is primarily drivers not driving to the conditions," he said.
"My line with this type of issue is 'cars don't kill people, people kill people'."
While fatal accidents tend to receive the most media attention, it is the daily near-misses between Coorabell, Federal and Eureka that have locals talking.
Susan Walker, who has lived in the area since 1976, said she was shocked at how dangerous rural roads had become.
"I think it's because there are more people on the roads driving faster than they should and more people becoming complacent while driving their regular route to and from work," she said.
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