Dr Ray Brindle MPIA, traffic and transport researcher, Malmsbury
Graham Smith (‘Not convinced’, Opinions, July 17) isn’t convinced that wire rope barriers save lives, as the Transport Accident Commission asserts.
Research and global experience shows there is little doubt that, installed correctly and where needed, these flexible barriers do indeed lead to significant reductions in the worst types of crash. However, there are valid concerns about the way the current program is being implemented.
The traffic engineers I knock around with are critical about the ‘one size fits all’ approach – the assumption apparently being that, if barriers in vulnerable locations are effective, then barriers along every metre of road must be even better. But it might be a case of ‘more is less’.
The main issues for the professionals concern cost-effectiveness and where the barriers are being placed, rather than the situations Graham mentions. Median width isn’t always an adequate safeguard, and cross-median head-ons are not pretty. Side-swipe rebounds into the traffic lane are likely to be the lesser of two evils.
My contacts agree that the current barriers leave too little room for safe stopping off the road, that they are being placed unnecessarily along quite flat roadsides with clear recovery areas, that they will lead to difficult and expensive routine maintenance (such as mowing), and so on.
The problem with the current program might be that it is being driven by the TAC, an insurance agency, not VicRoads (even though they are overseeing the installation). And even VicRoads now has too few experienced road safety engineers who can intervene.