Like the once ubiquitous payphone, freeway ‘Help Phones’ in Victoria are now on the endangered species list.
And, depending on the outcome of a new VicRoads review of its value to the community, the network of 590 metropolitan Help Phones - first installed in the 1970s - could soon become extinct.
The reason for the review will shock few: the growth in mobile phone ownership has resulted in a significant drop in the use of the roadside phones.
“For example, on the Eastern Freeway last year, less than one phone call per Help Phone was made to report a hazard on the road or a breakdown,” VicRoads boss John Merritt said.
With an estimated 92 percent of Australians aged 18 years and over now owning a mobile phone, it’s little surprise that the emergency phones have fallen into disuse - but it’s costing VicRoads a bundle to keep them from falling into disrepair.
Mr Merritt said that an evaluation of recent Help Phone use and maintenance costs found that that the drop in use amounted to an average cost to the organisation of $1000 per call.
The phones connect directly to the VicRoads Traffic Management Centre, but the service also utilises cameras to identify breakdowns or crashes, dispatching help and emergency services as needed.
“If you breakdown on any freeway we recommend that people stay in their vehicle and use their mobile phone to call for assistance,” Mr Merritt said.
VicRoads says it is not proposing any changes to services for drivers who break down or are involved in an accident, the review will consider whether the phones have outlived their usefulness.
The public is invited to offer feedback by accessing the VicRoads Consultation Hub at http://vicroads.vic.gov.au.
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