Marking the front line in the war on crashes
By Malcolm Schmidtke, Gay Alcorn
January 20, 2004
Even modern-day passenger cars cannot adequately protect their occupants at impact speeds above 30 to 50 km/h when rigid trees and poles are involved. – Monash University study
The burly engineering professor is standing beside what is arguably one of Victoria’s safest roads, Princes Freeway, fingering the blunt end of a crash barrier beneath an overpass in Werribee. The concrete block is off the side of the road but end-on to the oncoming traffic. “When someone comes off the road and they hit this,” he says, moustache bristling, “they would be wiped out. Nothing would be left of the car. This is a classic landmine.”
Their focus on these inadvertent instruments of death and injury reflects an increasing awareness within the road safety community that roadsides are the next big thing in the battle against the road toll – and that they require a different approach from the assault on speed. With speed, the focus has been on the individual – to change aberrant behaviour through blame and punishment. With roads, it is assumed that average law-abiding individuals have faults and frailties but that when they make errors they should not have to pay with their lives.
The other significant difference is that while one approach raises money, the other costs – a lot.