The Road Ahead : June 2013
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB 59 JUN/JUL 2013 THE ROAD AHEAD FEATURE | MEMBER ESSENTIALS WE READ ABOUT it on an almost daily basis -- another life lost on Queensland roads. And we can be quick to point the finger of blame directly at the driver. But while human error is often a contributing factor, a momentary lapse in judgement or concentration shouldn't be a death sentence. On the Bruce Highway, all too often it is. There's no denying that choosing to drink and drive is a mistake. Ignoring speed limits is a mistake. Driving when tired or distracted is a mistake. In most cases though, a crash may just be a case of an error in judgement, or an unfortunate coming together of events at a single point in time. But should these mistakes be punishable by death? iRAP* Chief Executive Officer Rob McInerney says making mistakes has long been accepted as part of human nature, and in almost every part of our life, systems are designed to cater for that. He uses the example of high-rise balconies being required, by law, to be fitted with balcony rails. Yet the same regard for human behaviours and safety isn't given to the Bruce Highway, the main road linking Queensland's north to south and the site of dozens of deaths and serious injuries each year. An absence of divided carriageways, audible tactile lines, overtaking lanes and crash barriers means there is nothing standing between a moment's lapse in judgement and possible death for drivers travelling on the Bruce Highway. "In reality, the infrastructure plays a significant role in deciding whether a crash occurs and how severe the outcome is," Mr McInerney says. "It lacks forgiveness for the errors humans make every day." Still not convinced that Queensland's roads contribute to the rising road toll? According to the Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP), an initiative of the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) and all state auto clubs, 88 percent of the Bruce Highway is in the worst two categories for crash risk per kilometre travelled. In stark contrast, zero percent of the Hume Highway in *THE INTERNATIONAL ROAD ASSESSMENT PROGRAMME (IRAP) IS A REGISTERED CHARITY DEDICATED TO PREVENTING THE MORE THAN 3500 ROAD DEATHS THAT OCCUR EVERY DAY WORLDWIDE. IRAP.NET New South Wales or the Pacific Highway is in the same two categories. What does that mean to Queensland motorists? It means that for every kilometre travelled on the Bruce Highway, you are three to five times more likely to die than you would be driving on the Hume or Pacific highways. "Blaming the driver has given us the excuse to put up with a system that is grossly inadequate," Mr McInerney says. "But that's little solace for the families affected. "Could an engineering treatment have saved those people's lives? In most cases, yes." Relatively low cost treatments to the Bruce Highway such as rumble strips, roadside barriers, wider centrelines and intersection turning lanes would effectively eliminate one and two star road sections and reduce the death rate along the full length of the road. The Federal Government's $4.1 billion, 10-year commitment to improving the Bruce Highway will target some of the most dangerous and flood prone sections, including: 1. Yeppen roundabout at Rockhampton. 2. Five creek bridges on the Bruce north and south of Townsville. 3. Widening of sections between Mackay and Bowen. 4. Widening of the Cairns southern access. 5. Construction of more dedicated overtaking lanes. 6. Planning for Cooroy to Curra Sections C and D. 7. Safety improvements around Ingham. 8. Caloundra Road to Sunshine Motorway section upgrade on the Sunshine Coast. 9. Managed motorways for Gateway- Bruce Highway connection at Caboolture. "The RACQ has been calling for many of these upgrades for more than a decade, so the Federal Government's commitment is good news for motorists right along the Bruce Highway, from Cairns to Caboolture," RACQ Executive General Manager Advocacy Paul Turner says. "This is a start, but nowhere near the end when it comes to upgrading the Bruce Highway to the AusRAP four-star rating we require to genuinely save lives. "Still, Queensland motorists should be delighted that we have seen such a major announcement of vital funding from the Federal Government for our most important road." To secure the funding needed to further improve infrastructure along the Bruce Highway and achieve a four-star rating, RACQ has joined with the AAA in a national Demand Better Roads campaign aimed to put pressure on the Federal Government in the lead-up to the election on September 14. A series of Demand Better Roads billboards have been erected on Queensland's busiest roads as part of the campaign, which calls for five key projects to be funded at the Federal election: 1. Bruce Highway -- upgrade of all six sections of the Bruce Highway. 2. Warrego Highway -- construct second Toowoomba Range crossing to address capacity and safety. 3. Gateway Motorway North -- upgrade to six lanes from Nudgee to Bruce Highway. 4. Pacific Motorway -- upgrade to six lanes from Nerang to Tugun. 5. Brisbane inner rail solution -- new rail tunnel to provide a second river crossing and add capacity to inner Brisbane. "In many respects, the solutions exist and all we need is the community and political support to act," Mr McInerney says. "The commitment of $4.1 billion is a great start, but the majority of that infrastructure is targeting the necessary traffic flow and flood-proofing projects. The plan is still grossly deficient in the overhaul needed to bring the Bruce Highway up to the RACQ target of a four-star standard along its entire length." To support the campaign for better roads in Queensland, join the online petition at demandbetterroads.com.au. ... the infrastructure plays a significant role in deciding whether a crash occurs...