From Lawrence Hargrave Drive to the Albion Park Rail Bypass, it's the 30-kilometre stretch of road that Wollongong drivers try to avoid.
But the road is also the address for shops, homes, offices and even hospitals, making the Princes Highway the artery we can't do without.
The sorry state of the historic north to south road has been revealed in new data, analysed by the Mercury, that shows the crash hot spots between Bulli and Dapto.
Between 2018 and 2022, there have been nearly 600 crashes on the road, according to data from Transport for NSW.
These include the most serious incidents such as when Kiama teen Libby Ruge was tragically killed while walking along the Princes Highway in Wollongong outside Collegians by an out-of-control car that also maimed two of her friends.
The data also includes fender-benders where no injury occurred, but does not include the bumps and prangs where emergency services or traffic controllers were not called.
It is these incidents specifically that Tony Chalk sees on a near daily basis from his chair at the reception of Fiducian Illawarra.
With the front window of his business facing towards the intersection of Guest Avenue and the Princes Highway in Fairy Meadow, there's not a week that goes by when an accident doesn't occur, Mr Chalk says.
"On Thursday, last week, there was another accident out the front."
Local residents reported that within 24 hours last week there were two crashes and a near miss at that intersection. While paramedic crews were not called, motorists emerged from their vehicles visibly shaken and car debris was scattered across the road.
Mr Chalk has worked from the same premises since 1999 and said the number of crashes leapt recently.
"In at least the last five or six years, it seems to be fairly constant."
The data shows that the commercial heart of Fairy Meadow is a typical hot spot on the Princes Highway. The least serious - but still significant - crashes tend to occur where shops line the highway, not only at Fairy Meadow but on Crown Street in Wollongong, near the intersection with Central Road in Unanderra, outside Dapto Mall and in Albion Park Rail.
Minor injuries follow a similar pattern, while moderate and serious injuries begin to spread out, and are the predominant incident type on high-speed sections of the road, such as between Bulli Pass and Waterfall and between Shellharbour Junction and Dunmore.
The split between serious and minor injuries has remained constant, but after a drop off in 2021 as lockdowns kept residents at home, the figures have begun to climb again.
CEO of regional advisory body RDA Illawarra Debra Murphy said in the past three years, transport patterns had permanently changed, as more people worked from home, placing pressure on local roads like the Princes Highway.
"There is more pressure on local roads than there ever has been," she said.
Research conducted by RDA Illawarra has found over a quarter of the Illawarra worked from home, compared to less than five per cent before COVID. The daily exodus of 20,000 workers to Sydney had also changed, and fewer people were taking public transport than prior to COVID.
"So much has changed, but we haven't caught up with that yet."
RDA Illawarra is calling for an integrated transport plan for the region, something that has never been done before, looking at all modes of transport and working to achieve a city where every resident can get to their closest CBD in 30 minutes via public transport.
For Mr Chalk, who travels every day by car with his wife and business partner from Mount Keira to Fairy Meadow, public transport was out of the question.
"That's not practical, I hop in the car and it's a seven-minute drive for us," he said.
"I'm getting older, my birthdays are coming quicker, I don't want to waste it on public transport."
Ms Murphy said crash data was a symptom of a broken transport system.
"Crash statistics are an indicator of a system that's not working, and has failed to keep pace with the changing demographics of people and the way we work and move around," she said.
"We've got the indicators, now we need to figure out what we need to do differently."
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