A representative of Milton Hospital’s maternity services committee has joined the raft of voices calling for an upgrade to the Princes Highway as part of Fairfax Media’s Fix It Now campaign.
Milton Hospital lost its maternity services about three years ago and the majority of expectant mothers in the southern Shoalhaven region now drive to Nowra to give birth.
While former Australian Federal Police sergeant and Milton business owner Rebecca Cameron is among a group of community members fighting to restore maternity services, the predominantly single lane highway is a signficant problem for mothers in labour, she said.
Recent deaths have caused additional anxiety.
“[Losing maternity services] caused a great deal of angst and upset amongst the community because firstly women can’t have their babies close to home and they can’t have that support network that’s close,” Mrs Cameron said. “
“Secondly they have to drive on a road that’s notoriously dangerous whilst in labour, more often than not, at all hours of the day and night.
“This of course causes them a great deal of stress, not only during the labour, but prior to the labour. These things, and most experts will tell you, are not conducive to a trouble free birth.”
The single lane stretch of road south of the Jervis Bay turnoff is a significant issue because it is unforgiving, Mrs Cameron said.
While a driver may be unaffected by drugs or alcohol, fatigue, distractions and driving safely within the speed limit there’s less room for error.
“You make a small mistake and you run off the road, you either cross the lines and hit another a car, or you go off the side of the road and you hit a tree and you are going to die [because[ at that speed it’s unforgiving,” Mrs Cameron said.
The former AFP driving instructor also ran a business in Batemans Bay.
She would commute between Milton and Batemans Bay every day along the Princes Highway, as many residents do.
On December 28, 2009, Mrs Cameron was in the first car on the scene, driving from the south, of the fiery crash at East Lynne that claimed the lives of David Bridge and daughters Jordan and Makeely, as well as fuel tanker driver David Carolan.
What occurred at the scene had a significant impact on her, Mrs Cameron said.
“20 years of working as a copper I had never seen anything like that at all,” she said.
“That was a particularly tragic accident. That corner is still there, they’ve widened it slightly, it's still a dangerous piece of road.”
The weight of lingering memories of being first on scene at a severe accident is another reason why the state and federal Governments should come to an agreement to fix the highway.
“It’s dreadful, people like Lisa Elmas and these other people that attend these accidents and are first on the scene - I know what it feels like, I’ve been there before,” she said.
“It’s dreadful and our local coppers and ambos, all these people have to go through that time after time and it’s just wrong.
“If we can do something to fix it we should ... we should build ourselves a better road.”
Fairfax Media launched the Fix It Now campaign in March to call on the state and federal governments to commit to an 80/20 funding model for urgent safety upgrades to the Princes Highway.