Les doesn't live to see 'killer highway' fix

The late Les Peterson, with photos of his wife Vicki and son Darren.
The late Les Peterson, with photos of his wife Vicki and son Darren.
Vicki Peterson.

Vicki Peterson.

Darren Peterson.

Darren Peterson.

If only father and widower Les Peterson could have been there to witness the official opening of the new section of the Princes Highway at Victoria Creek.

His memory was evoked last week when member for Bega Andrew Constance officially opened the final section of the $40 million highway, 13 kilometres south of Narooma.

Les lost his 18-year-old son Darren when he collided with a milk tanker at the old northern approach to the creek crossing in 2007.

Tragically, less than a year later, his wife and Darren's mother Vicki was killed when she was involved in a head-on collision at Dignams Creek, less than 15 kilometres away. Mrs Peterson was on her way to visit Darren's grave.

Mr Peterson campaigned strongly to get the road upgraded, including an emotional appeal to a 2008 coronial inquest into deaths on the highway.

Sadly, Mr Peterson passed away before he could see the project completed.

"Les passed away the day before the minister signed the papers authorising the project," Mr Constance said.

"I think it's only appropriate that we pay tribute to him on this day as he was the one that lobbed up, having the courage to talk about what happened to his family."

Before the start of the coronial inquiry - which looked at the circumstances surrounding 19 road deaths from Yallah to the Victorian border - Mr Peterson told the Mercury it would be too painful for him to attend court.

However, he submitted a letter to the court, asking the state government to heed the human toll of the "Killer Highway".

"The road simply does not allow for human error," the letter read.

"Condolences are not enough. Changes need to be made to stop further accidents."

The letter argued that the legal, emotional, physical and financial costs of accidents were more than the cost of preventive measures.

"It's too late for [my wife and son] but it's not too late for others," Mr Peterson said.

Though the inquest found that the road conditions were not responsible for any of the deaths, it did call on the state and federal governments to work together on realigning the section of road between Victoria Creek and Dignams Creek.

Mr Constance said the project would improve existing highway conditions, making it a much safer road for motorists.

"More than three kilometres were upgraded between Narooma Road - also known as the Old Princes Highway - and Corkhill Drive at Central Tilba, 13 kilometres south of Narooma," he said.

"Work included removing a number of tight bends, adding an overtaking lane in both directions, and demolishing and rebuilding a new bridge over Victoria Creek."


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