Freeway safety

Since the Heysen Tunnels opened in March 2000, a raft of improvements have been made to the freeway’s down-track to increase its safety.
A third lane designated for slow and heavy vehicles was created, two arrester beds were installed, lower speed limits, tougher penalties and low gear rules have been implemented and cameras that specifically target heavy vehicles have been erected.
However, recent incidents have proven that these improvements can’t eliminate human error.
Within weeks, two interstate truck drivers failed to use a gear low enough to slow their descent to the Tollgate.
They both lost their brakes as a result and one was forced to dodge stationary cars, speeding through a red light at the freeway’s intersection with Portrush, Cross and Glen Osmond roads before coming to a halt shortly after.
The other crashed into six stationary cars and a cyclist.
Thankfully no lives were lost and serious injuries were avoided, but the drivers were stripped of their licences because of their failures to use low gear ranges and for not making use of the arrester beds.
In 2018, 4400 heavy vehicles used the freeway every day, meaning that more than 1.6 million heavy vehicle movements occurred throughout the year.
Mistakes will be made and drivers will misjudge their abilities and the capability of their vehicles.
Unfortunately there is no margin for error – the freeway suddenly ends at a set of traffic lights and connects to heavily trafficked suburban roads.
We know all too well the damage an out-of-control truck can cause and if these situations can be avoided by simply driving into an arrester bed, they should be.
However, according to a 2014 inquest, it can cost between $1000 and $10,000 to recover a heavy vehicle from an arrester bed.
That cost is borne by the vehicle’s company, so perhaps the State Government should explore subsidising or eliminating the cost of recovery.
Perhaps that would make drivers more inclined to use the bed in the case of even a potential emergency rather than risk their lives and the lives of others by hoping they can recover from an out-of-control situation.

For the full report, see the print issue of The Courier.