BLACK OUT: FIXING OUR NATION’S BLACK SPOTS
Black spots are patches on our roads that claim more than their share of accidents. The corners, hills and bridges regularly rimmed with broken glass or, tragically, flowers.
What Makes a Black Spot?
The Government threshold for declaring a location as a black spot is 2 casualty incidences, or 0.13 casualty crashes per kilometre per year, over a 5 year period.
National Transport Insurance conducted a Major Accident Investigation Report into black spots in 2015. The report indicated that in black spot accidents involving trucks:
- speed was the major culprit
- fatigue as a cause was at its highest level since 2007, with WA the worst performing state
- mechanical faults caused 5 per cent of crashes, with a significant portion of these attributed to tyre issues, and
- driver error and roll overs while tipping contributed to multiple incidences.
Of course, driver and vehicle error aren’t always to blame. External factors can include:
- insufficient or unclear signage
- dangerous road design
- poor/restricted visibility
- confusing intersections
- unsealed shoulders
- roads in a state of disrepair, and
- lack of overtaking opportunities.
A Glance at Your State’s Black Spots
Unsurprisingly, major freeways and highways account for a large share of the nation’s black spots.
Queensland was the worst performing state for truck accidents, with the Bruce Highway topping RACQ’s recent Unroadworthy Road Survey. This heavily utilised corridor between Brisbane and northern regional cities is one of 8 highways in a top 10 that also includes the Warrego Highway in QLD, which recently recorded another double fatality.
The Bruce provides a crucial link in west-east freight movements, so it’s welcome news that the road will soon receive a ten-year upgrade.
Western Australia recorded the second highest number of serious incidences involving trucks, with the Great Northern Highway the worst offender. The Great Northern accounted for 7.3 per cent of major accidents when allowing for the proportion of freight task undertaken in the state against number of incidences.
The title of Worst Performing Highway will surprise few people. The Hume Highway, the well-trod stretch of bitumen that links NSW and VIC, accounted for over 80 per cent of losses. Given the high volume of traffic, and its important role in freight transportation, the Hume has become the subject of much scrutiny and improvements.
Recent completion of a bypass near Kempsey in northern NSW brought some relief for the Pacific Highway (another serial contender for worst performance). The bypass ensures the road now avoids the site of one Australia’s most horrific road accidents.
While Victoria’s roads performed relatively well, statistically speaking, the state government has announced a package worth $1 billion aimed at significantly reducing the toll.
So What’s Being Done?
The Black Spot Programme is a federally funded initiative committing $500 million across Australia for the 2014/15-2018/19 period. It allocates at least 50 per cent of funding over the next couple of years to black spots in regional areas – a direct response to the high number of losses.
Considering the ever-growing emphasis and burden on road freight transport, this can only be welcome news.
Addressing black spots may involve installing traffic lights or roundabouts, reducing speed limits, road demarcation, gantry warning systems, improved signage/lighting/visibility, restricting turn offs in high-risk areas, straightening the road or other strategies identified through crash investigations and/or road audits.
Collating accident data is invaluable for pinpointing dangerous hot spots, and enables monitoring of road treatment effectiveness. As such, details of fatalities are published in a fatal road crash database maintained by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics. Additionally, a quarterly bulletin publishes data on fatal road crashes involving heavy vehicles specifically.
According to the database, 442 people have died on our roads this year, to April 2016.
The recent National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS 2011-2020) Report highlights areas to be addressed – namely Safe Roads, Safe Speeds, Safe Vehicles and Safe People – in order to significantly reduce the number of lives lost.
Generally speaking, crash statistics are improving. This is due in part, to improved road safety technology, road design, education, safer driving, and in-vehicle safety measures (traction control systems are one such example, while another – Electronic Stability Control – was the subject of a recent study).
But we’re not at zero yet.
Nominating a Black Spot
Nominating an area of concern for potential black spot funding is as simple as filling in this form and sending it to the relevant state. To see if the location is eligible, or to read further information, go to http://investment.infrastructure.gov.au/funding/blackspots/nominate_black_spots.aspx
You may want to search for the location in existing funded projects first, to see if action is already being taken.