THE TAC is spending more than $20 million installing barriers along the Bass and South Gippsland Highways.
It’ll cost $12.8 million to install flexible safety barriers and ‘wide centre line treatments’, effectively a dedicated space between two sets of traffic.
Around 30 of 50km of the safety barriers have already been installed along the Bass Highway, between Lang Lang and Anderson.
The improvements are costing $7.45 million and are expected to be completed in early to mid-2018.
But earlier this year, the barriers already proved their worth, saving a truck from weaving onto the wrong side of the road and into oncoming traffic.
Truck driver Brian Somers was driving on the Bass Highway at Grantville when the front right steer tyre blew, at 100km/h.
“It pulled me straight to the right,” he said.
“All I could do was try to not lock the brakes, hold the wheel and hope that it wouldn’t go off the road. I felt like I was just a passenger.”
The wire rope safety barrier in the centre of the road stopped his 15-tonne truck from veering onto the wrong side of the road.
The truck slid along the road for 100 metres and when it stopped, Brian couldn’t believe his luck.
The barrier had worked. The steel rope got caught on the bumper and although his truck had a “fair bit of damage”, the barriers stopped the accident from ending disastrously.
“And if I hadn’t hit someone head-on, it could have gone through a fence and into houses on the other side of the road.”
‘We can’t control everything’: TAC
Transport Accident Commission (TAC) lead road safety director Samantha Cockfield says a high portion of deaths and serious injuries happen on high-speed country roads.
She said Brian’s story shows “how we can reach our goal of zero deaths and serious injuries on Victorian roads”.
“We are spending more than a billion dollars creating a safe Victorian road system and that includes a huge investment in installing wire rope barriers across the state, including the South Gippsland Highway and Bass Highway.
“Wire rope barriers are already saving lives and preventing serious injuries by stopping cars from running off roads and into the path of oncoming traffic, trees or other roadside hazards.”
She admitted the TAC can’t control everything that happens on Victorian roads and said all drivers are susceptible to making mistakes.
“We’re installing these wire rope barriers to ensure that death and serious injuries are not a consequence of those mistakes and to keep Victorians safe when the unexpected happens,” she said.
Bryan Sherritt, director of VicRoads’ safe system road infrastructure program said Brian is one of the hundreds of people saved by the wire barriers. He said the way the barriers work is “remarkable”.
“We know that flexible roadside barriers and centre line barriers on high risk, high volume 100km/h roads can reduce run-off road and head-on crashes by up to 85 per cent,” he said.
“On impact, the ropes deflect and absorb the energy of a crash and the posts collapse, slowing down and redirecting the vehicle away from the hazard with very little rebound.”
VicRoads has been collating data from an online interactive map, where people can comment on specific roads or areas, and community information sessions.
Online comments include a request for a truck parking bay along the South Gippsland Highway between Bena and Korumburra for city-bound traffic, drivers pointing out the “poor state” of Korumburra-Wonthaggi Road and cycling issues in and around Leongatha.
VicRoads will be hosting two community information sessions on the South Gippsland Highway works on Tuesday, September 5 from 5pm to 7.30pm at the South Gippsland Shire Council Hub, and another one on Thursday, September 21 between 10am and 2pm at the Meeniyan Mid-week Market on Whitelaw Street, Meeniyan.