by Bryan Sherritt, Director Safe System Road Infrastructure Program, VicRoads

Not many people like to admit this, but everyone makes mistakes on our roads. That’s why we’re currently rolling out safety infrastructure across our state’s highest risk country roads.

The tired driver who just wants to get home, the distracted driver who loses concentration, the young driver who isn’t yet experienced in wet conditions.

We’ve made seat belts mandatory and introduced tough drink driving laws — but we can’t legislate against the mistakes people make on our roads.

So we’re making these roads safer and more forgiving for when mistakes do happen.

Country roads – like the Hume, the Calder, the Princes Freeway – are where we see too many people losing their lives in head-on and run-off-road crashes.

In fact, these were the biggest cause of fatalities on country roads last year.

The number of people killed on rural roads increased by five in 2017, from 150 to 155. Of those, 109 were involved in a crash where a vehicle left its lane, with 72 lives lost in single-vehicle crashes on the roadside, and 37 deaths resulting from a head-on collision.

Installing barriers and strips
To reduce the number of people being killed and injured on our roads, we’re installing flexible safety barriers on the edge and sometimes in the centre of our highest risk country roads.

They work by absorbing the force of a crash and bringing the car to a gradual stop, and are proven to reduce the risk of being seriously injured or killed in a crash by around 85 per cent.

Last year alone there were more than 1,700 hits recorded to flexible barriers across the state.

That’s many serious or even fatal crashes prevented. Crashes where in many cases the driver could simply drive away — perhaps shaken, but not hurt.

Another safety treatment we’re rolling out on our highest risk roads is audio tactile line marking, more commonly known as rumble strip line marking.

When a vehicle drives over them, the rumble strips vibrate and alert the driver to the fact they’ve strayed from their lane.

Research from the US shows a 37 per cent reduction in head-on crashes and a 26 per cent reduction in run-off-road crashes where centreline and edge rumble strip line marking was installed.

New lanes and initiatives for motorcyclists
We’re also building more overtaking lanes to provide drivers more opportunities to safely overtake, widening the centre of roads to prevent head-on crashes, and building roundabouts to improve the safety of dangerous intersections.

We’re also undertaking safety improvements specifically targeted at motorcyclists, who are some of our most vulnerable road users.

Things that seem small for a driver can be disastrous to a motorcyclist, like gravel on the road or an uneven road surface, particularly at corners.

That’s why we’re making sure that the roads used most frequently by motorcyclists are safer by modifying barriers with cushioning and ‘rub rail’, sealing driveways and side roads to prevent gravel getting on the road, and doing more maintenance works to ensure a smoother ride.

It’s all part of the Victorian Government’s Towards Zero goal to ensure nobody is killed or seriously injured on our roads.

The $1.1 billion Towards Zero Action Plan is funded through the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and is being delivered by VicRoads.

It’s a transformational program of works that will drastically improve the safety of these high risk country roads. Our aim is simple: to save lives.

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