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Caravans, put simply, are a menace on our roads

Sadly the warmer air, along with thoughts of beaches and balmy sunset beers, also brings with it the reappearance of one of Australia's most noxious introduced pests, the caravan.

This is the time of year when, like snails emerging after rain, the annual mass migration of grey nomads and other assorted nana van haulers and RV drivers begins in earnest, clogging our national highways with the automotive equivalent of cholesterol.

For a nation with a population of not quite 25 million, we are afflicted with more than 600,000 registered caravans and campervans, according to a 2016 report prepared for the Caravan Industry Association.

Line them all up end to end and you have enough vehicular menace to stretch from the first 110km/h zone on the Bruce Highway all the way to Dante's ninth circle of Hell.

And take a bow Queensland, on a per capita basis the infestation is worse here than anywhere else; 160,000 of the bloody things, or 26 per cent of the Australian total.

We've all endured the curse of the caravaner: a perfectly safe and pleasant road trip rudely brought to a grinding crawl as five tonnes of car, trailer and mobile nana nest trundles along at a glacial pace, blindly oblivious to the increasingly frustrated conga line of traffic snaking along behind it.

In the interest of fairness, there is the occasional caravan driver who displays a degree of courtesy to those of us who don't consider 80km/h to be an acceptable highway speed. Such is the scarcity of this breed, however, they are often greeted with happily surprised toots of the horn by grateful motorists when they actually pull over to let others pass.

Camping # 52 XL
Camping # 52 XL

The trouble is that these rare examples of motoring civility are hopelessly outnumbered by the clueless and the self-entitled: the "I pay my taxes and the rest of you can get stuffed" brigade.

And every year there are more of them, with nana van registration rates increasing at about six per cent a year in Queensland, or four times the rate of population growth.

If this was the crown-of-thorns starfish or cane toads we'd be talking about a federally funded eradication program to stem the spread of the blighters.

Each year too it seems the nana van brigade dream up new ways to torment the rest of us.

Apparently fomenting road rage in drivers trapped behind a few tonnes of steel and aluminium travelling at the most "fuel efficient" speed is not enough.

Nor will travelling in convoys almost impossible to pass safely, yawing wildly across other lanes as they corner, or deciding to hog a rare overtaking lane as a nana vanner tries (often in vain) to spool up just enough pace to overtake an even slower vehicle, suffice when it comes to inflicting suffering on anonymous others.

On a recent two week road trip (Brisbane to Bathurst and then north to Rockhampton and back) I observed numerous campervans - those great lumbering Winnebagos and their ill-bred ilk - galumphing along the highway while also towing a smaller SUV behind.

In a few cases even this was apparently not enough extra road weight, with the campervan instead towing a double decker trailer with a vehicle on one level and a tinny strapped on above, which makes you wonder why the driver didn't just invest in a semi-trailer, throw in a couple of jet skis and a quad bike, and be done with it.

CCTV footage of caravan hitting parked car

Apparently fomenting road rage in drivers trapped behind a few tonnes of steel and aluminium travelling at the most “fuel efficient” speed is not enough.
Apparently fomenting road rage in drivers trapped behind a few tonnes of steel and aluminium travelling at the most “fuel efficient” speed is not enough.

And here's the rub. While there are no doubt a number of experienced and competent drivers towing these behemoths along our roads, many are simply a menace.

In effect, a bloke who may have never driven anything more demanding than a Toyota Camry can decide to kit himself out with a 2.5 tonne Landcruiser towing a van with an aggregate trailer mass (the weight of the van, trailer and payload) of another three tonnes or more and a combined length of more than 12 metres, and then hit the highways.

Bear in mind here that you need a licence for a jetski, a tinny, or to ride a motorbike, based on the eminently sensible reasoning that different skill sets are required to piloting the family car to and from work or the local shops.

The same should apply to van drivers, many of whom in my experience are patently unqualified to be hauling mini road trains around the country in an endless search for the next free campsite or driver reviver coffee stop.

And don't start clogging my inbox with furious missives protesting how considerate and competent you are.

Instead, direct your ire at all those vanners - and you must see them too - who give the lot of you such a rotten reputation among those of us forced to endure and avoid what is the single greatest road hazard in Australia.

Topics:  caravans opinion

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