Safety works needed for deadly Captain Cook Hwy

12 November 2018 The State’s peak motoring body has called for urgent upgrades to the Captain Cook Highway after its shocking crash history revealed there had been eight deaths and hundreds of injuries over five years.

RACQ Head of Public Policy Rebecca Michael said analyses of 2013-17 crash history and data from the Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) saw almost half the length given a disappointing two-star rating for safety, as well as recording a high and medium-high crash risk between Cairns and Port Douglas.

“We really need to see urgent improvements to the dangerous section of highway between Cairns and Smithfield – that’s where a significant number of crashes at congested roundabouts have been recorded,” Dr Michael said.

“However, the Captain Cook Highway as a whole needs review. Not only has it claimed eight lives in just five years, shockingly, it’s put 215 people in hospital with serious injuries.

“Our research shows these deadly crashes often happen when drivers are run off the road and crash head-on or collide with other vehicles at intersections.”

Dr Michael said the risk could be countered with a dedicated program of low-cost, high impact safety works.

“Simple measures like clearing roadside obstacles, installing safety barriers and shoulder rumble strips will reduce the risk and severity of crashes,” she said.

“If the State and Federal Governments focussed on funding small but effective safety projects on the road, we’d save lives and prevent hundreds of injuries over the next 20 years.

“The $152 million Smithfield Bypass project is a great start, it’ll reduce travel times, congestion and crashes at the busy roundabouts in Smithfield, but other safety improvements are required along the length of the Captain Cook.”


Crash history for Captain Cook Highway 2013-2017:

Section of highway Length (km) Avg. vehicles / day Casualty crashes Deaths Combined risk rating
Cairns to Smithfield 9 33,900 119 1 High
Smithfield to Clifton Beach 9 23,400 75 1 High
Clifton Beach to Port Douglas 38 6,500 97 6 High
Port Douglas to Mossman 11 5,800 17 0 Medium-high


*Combined Risk Rating – Collective and Individual Risks have been combined with equal weighting to produce a single risk score per road section.