Road club calls for better design to fix killer roads

By: Greg Worrall

Better roads could save more lives than better drivers and better cars combined, the state’s peak motoring body claimed today,

Better roads could save more lives than better drivers and better cars combined, the state’s peak motoring body claimed today, releasing a "hit list" of nine Queensland highways that urgently need upgrading.

RACQ traffic and safety executive manager John Wikman said more than 300 people died on Queensland roads and a further 5000 were hospitalised each year with serious injuries.

"There is no single reason why this is so, nor is there a ‘silver bullet’ remedy," Wikman says.

"In the past traditional road safety campaigns have focused on improving driver behaviour and producing cars with comprehensive safety features.

"There is no doubt that this combination has helped save many lives and that such campaigns must continue.

"However there is now strong evidence that safer roads could save as many lives as the other two campaigns combined."

He says recognising the role roads played in safety had been the impetus for RACQ to develop AusRAP – the Australian Road Assessment Program – in conjunction with the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) and other state auto clubs.

"Last year the RACQ published risk-maps of road crash history to provide a measure of the safety performance of more than 7500 km of Queensland’s rural highway network comprising national and selected state roads," Wikman says

"Today we have released a second report providing star ratings for nearly 8000 km of rural highways, including 2700 km of state-funded and controlled roads.

"In this latest report sections of road are awarded a rating between one (least safe) and five (safest) stars based on such factors as road alignment, the presence of unprotected roadside hazards, shoulder width and whether or not the road was divided.

"Of the state highways assessed, 17 percent rated two stars, 82 percent rated three stars and just 0.4 percent rated four stars. There were no one- or five-star roads.

"This compared with one percent two stars, 59 percent three stars and 40 percent four stars for the 5200 km network of Queensland’s AusLink national road network previously measured by the club in 2006.

"It’s to be expected that the standard of the national network would be higher than the state highways but there is much room for improvement on both levels."

Wikman says that sections of roads which had a high risk crash rating and a poor star rating represented compelling candidates in need of urgent repairs and improvements. RACQ’s priority list included:

• Brisbane Valley Highway from Ipswich to Esk.
• Bruce Highway from Cooroy to Gympie.
• D’Aguilar Highway from Caboolture to Woodford, and sections further along towards Yarraman.
• Gillies Highway from Gordonvale to Yungaburra.
• Nearly 30km of the Captain Cook Highway south of Mossman.
• Kennedy Highway from the Captain Cook Highway to Kuranda, and a 13km section south of Atherton.
• Mt Lindesay Highway from Park Ridge to Beaudesert.
• New England Highway from Crows Nest to 5km north of Toowoomba.
• Proserpine-Shute Harbour Road.

Wikman says just three types of crashes accounted for around 75 percent of all crashes on rural highways.

"The Department of Main Roads has identified that of all killed and serious injury crashes that occurred on Queensland’s national and state highways 36 percent were intersection crashes, 33 percent run-off road crashes and 7 percent head-on crashes," he says.

"The incidence of these types of crashes and their severity can be greatly reduced by engineering improvements to roads and roadsides.

"Examples of such measures would include removing or protecting hazards such as trees, poles and steep embankments."

Research by the AAA showed that a one-star improvement in the road design could potentially halve the community cost of crashes (death and serious injury) and a two-star improvement halve it again.

Wikman says two- and three-star ratings were unacceptable on important, heavily trafficked, national network roads.

"The RACQ urges the Federal government to fund upgrades to bring them up to at least four stars," he said.

"Similarly upgrades are necessary across Queensland’s state-controlled highways to bring them up to a minimum of three stars in the short term."

Wikman says the RACQ would welcome the opportunity to work with respective governments to progress these upgrades.

"The club believes user safety on all key highways will benefit from more forgiving roadsides, improved sealed shoulders, road alignment upgrades, regular overtaking opportunities, safer intersections and appropriate safety barriers," he says.

"In many instances it is the design of the road and roadside that can ultimately determine whether a crash is a killer or not.

"Using the estimated target that safer roads could save 330 lives a year nationally as a guide, this means we could save around 70 in Queensland alone.

"The bottom line is that safe drivers in safe vehicles should not die as a consequence of unsafe roads."

"We know how to build safe roads – we simply need to make the economic decision to actually build them."

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