FAIL: Roads Designed To Kill, Part 1 Photo:

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Tim O'Brien | Dec, 12 2014 | 14 Comments

There are three key elements to the ‘road-safety equation’: safer drivers, safer cars and safer roads. It is a closed circle in which each element plays a role.

Getting the three parts right is the key to reducing road deaths, injury and trauma. This is self-evident.

'Safer drivers' is to do with driver behaviour. It is an acceptance of responsibility, of driving to the conditions, of being aware and considerate of other road users, of not driving while impaired with drugs or alcohol, of not driving while distracted; of these and other defensive behaviours.

And, on the matter of 'safer cars' - on the implementation of dynamic and passive safety systems in modern vehicles - car manufacturers have risen to the challenge, invest massive amounts of money and resources into these systems, and lead governments on the issue.

But 'safer roads' - in minimising risk, in designing roads which are as safe as is reasonably and practicably possible; the responsibility of government and regulators - well, this would seem to be another matter.

For all the billions targeted to tunnels and freeways in inner cities (where, just maybe, better public transport and more creative solutions to traffic management, might produce better transport efficiency outcomes), and for the money targeted to extending the separated carriageways and freeways snaking between population centres, there are too many roads that are simply dangerous.

Unprotected, poorly placed light pole: waiting to claim a rear door." class="small img-responsive"/>
Unprotected, poorly placed light pole: waiting to claim a rear door.
And are designed that way.

I would contend that there is not the same rigour in pursuing and correcting the failures of roads authorities, and of putting them on the mat, as there is in prosecuting drivers for minor infractions.

For this piece, Part 1 in a series, we’ll look at just one appalling design failure - the siting of light poles on numerous of the roundabouts leading onto and off the Monash Freeway.

It’s a road I know well, it’s the route I take from Melbourne to Phillip Island.

That road - and roads leading into it - from the Monash, to the Bass Highway, to Phillip Island, is an epic fail in road design and construction by VicRoads.

It is so dangerous in parts that it should have Victoria’s TAC at the regulator’s door demanding action.

As Parts 2 and 3 of this series will also show, there are avoidable dangers to motorists and motorcyclists ‘engineered-in’ to its construction. Hazards that should not be there, and unnecessarily expose road users to risk of death or injury.

Off camber, right where these cars are most unbalanced.
Off camber, right where these cars are most unbalanced.

But this is just one road. TMR invites readers to submit your images, with a few words, showing roads you drive on, that, through neglect or poor design, are dangerous.

Get in touch: email your images to [email protected]

This is your opportunity to put the heat on failures by the regulators - on your RTAs and state governments - in the carriage of their responsibilities.


The light pole at the roundabout: Cardinia Road

Have a look at these images of cars on this off-camber roundabout. It sits on Cardinia Road at the busy west-bound entrance to the Monash Freeway.

Barely 600mm from the curb.
Barely 600mm from the curb.

Right where these vehicles are most unbalanced, VicRoads has placed a light pole. Presumably, it is to illuminate the roundabout.

But in this instance, the light pole itself - just two A4 sheets of paper from the edge of the off-camber road surface - is the danger.

Pakenham, Koo Wee Rup, Cardinia Road, is one of Victoria’s wettest areas. Soaking rains, damp fogs and flooded surfaces are common. A fact the road builders and engineers would clearly have known.

The inevitable: a blurry image (late in the evening) tells the tale. But who could not have expected this?" class="small img-responsive"/>
The inevitable: a blurry image (late in the evening) tells the tale. But who could not have expected this?
Even at low speed, this roundabout is slippery in the wet.

So, whose child will be seated at the rear door when a driver, with no margin for error given the proximity of the danger, loses control on this roundabout on a wet slippery night? (And no ESC on most of these cars in these images.)

In the image to the right (a blurry one, there was little light), the inevitable has clearly happened. There, on the ground, is the light pole and the skid marks over the kerb are clearly visible.

When I passed again some weeks later, the light pole had been replaced (the header image and below), and it’s still there. Still no guard-rail, still waiting to find the rear door of a car.

But this is not the only roundabout along the Monash designed this way. The Koo Wee Rup exit and entrance is the same; so too others.

Who would design a road like this, placing such an obvious hazard in such a dangerous place? Who, in VicRoads, signed this off?

And, the question might be asked, which is the more dangerous? To use this roundabout on a daily basis, or to inadvertently creep a few kilometres-per-hour over the posted limit on a straight stretch of freeway?

Barely weeks later, the pole was replaced. Still waiting to claim a rear door, still no guard.
Barely weeks later, the pole was replaced. Still waiting to claim a rear door, still no guard.

This is one example, among many along this freeway arterial, of poles placed dangerously close to a kerb, with no Armco barrier shielding them from turning traffic.

As if more proof was needed of the danger, just yesterday I took this last image, below. It shows another light pole on another side of the same roundabout (the pole is not in fact leaning as suggested by the lens of the camera).

Look closely and you'll see skid marks - most likely from a vehicle that has understeered off the road surface onto the grass - pulling up barely 30cms from the base of the pole.

These poles of course are designed to sheer-off on impact. But what force is required to have them sheer? A child's head at the rear door of the Charade Sedan above... would that do it?

So, which then, a creeping speedo or this poorly-sited hazard poses the greater danger and is more likely to kill or maim an occupant of a vehicle? Perhaps not the creeping speedo...

Another pole, another near miss.
Another pole, another near miss.

Tim O'Brien
- TMR Managing Editor

Tuesday: FAIL Part 2. Wire-rope Barriers Everywhere: Who Cares About Motorcyclists?

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