Jethro on mod­i­fy­ing; Mor­ley blasts wire fences; Keen finds Hilux coun­try

Motor (Australia) - - POWER. PERFORMANCE. PASSION. - David Mor­ley mo­[email protected]­dia.com.au

I RECKON IT’S ABOUT TIME we had a chat about th­ese new wirerope bar­ri­ers that are go­ing up all over the place. I know there’s a bunch of in­sur­ance com­pa­nies telling author­i­ties that th­ese bar­ri­ers are a great road-safety ini­tia­tive, but here’s the re­al­ity: th­ese things are go­ing to kill peo­ple. Di­rectly and in­di­rectly.

I’m talk­ing about the three-strand wire fences on de­formable posts that are lin­ing more and more of our coun­try roads ev­ery minute. The idea is that they’ll stop us from ran­domly run­ning off the road and slam­ming into what­ever road­side trees are stand­ing around keep­ing the koalas off the deck. But they’re ill-con­ceived (the bar­ri­ers, not the koalas). And lethal. And here’s how it’s go­ing to pan out.

For a start, th­ese cheese cut­ters are in­stant death to any­body who chooses to travel by mo­tor­cy­cle. And don’t give me that tem­po­rary Aus­tralian bull­shit; a mo­tor­cy­cle is a le­gal way to get around and, in th­ese times of cli­mate change, a mode of trans­port that should be en­cour­aged, not turned into a game of Rus­sian roulette. The bot­tom line is that the wire ropes them­selves are go­ing to be like pi­ano wires at 100km/h. And even if the posts are de­formable, they’re not as de­formable as hu­man flesh.

An­other prob­lem is the in­stal­la­tion of the bar­ri­ers. I’m kind of okay with hav­ing them in the very mid­dle of a di­vided road like a free­way, as a means of pre­vent­ing a car that has lost con­trol from swap­ping sides and scream­ing into on­com­ing traf­fic. The point be­ing that if you’re that far off the road, you’re al­ready three chap­ters into your crash.

But what I’m see­ing is the bar­ri­ers be­ing in­stalled right up to the edge of the road on the kerb­side and – in some cases near my place – along the cen­tre-line of an un­di­vided road. Well, a pre­vi­ously un­di­vided road, any­way. In fact, there’s a stretch just out­side Mel­bourne where the wires are strung hard up against the run­ning lane with no emer­gency lane what­so­ever, with a cen­tral bar­rier as well, turn­ing the car­riage­way into, ef­fec­tively, a one-lane tun­nel.

My prob­lem with that is that the ‘ex­perts’ are telling me the bar­ri­ers will ar­rest any car that swerves off the road, and that will save lives. Bzzzt. Typ­i­cally, they’re giv­ing us only one side of the tale. What it will mean is that any­body who hap­lessly puts two wheels any­where near the gravel, will be grabbed by the wire ropes and brought to a lurch­ing, panel-crunch­ing stop. What’s the ra­tio of two-wheels-off whoop­sies, to proper, asleep-at-the-wheel road de­par­tures? I don’t know, but th­ese bar­ri­ers are go­ing to turn the for­mer into much big­ger in­ci­dents.

The other prob­lem with turn­ing a coun­try road into a tun­nel is that there’s nowhere to get around an ob­struc­tion. Bear in mind, they won’t even slow down a kan­ga­roo or wom­bat (the two most com­mon things a driver needs to dodge in th­ese parts) so driv­ers will be forced to rely on their brakes to miss our furry friends. It won’t be enough. Yeah, I know the old adage that you should never swerve to miss a crit­ter, but if you can safely get around them, I al­ways have, even if it means us­ing the other side of the road. Not any more.

But here’s what re­ally both­ers me. Since th­ese bar­ri­ers go for kilo­me­tres un­bro­ken, with no emer­gency lane, what hap­pens when a crash oc­curs at some point along their length? How do you get an am­bu­lance to the crash site if the sin­gle-lane road is blocked with other traf­fic that got there first? Even a he­li­copter (should one mirac­u­lously be avail­able) can’t land right on the wreck­age.

And what about bush­fires? What hap­pens when one car conks out along a length of bar­rier as a whole com­mu­nity is us­ing the same road to evac­u­ate in the face of an­other Black Satur­day?

Fair dinkum, if any­body but an in­sur­ance com­pany sug­gested a road with no way to turn around or get a first-re­spon­der to the scene of a calamity was a safer road, they’d be laughed out of town. To re­fer to th­ese arse-hats as road-safety ex­perts is just an in­sult. To other ar­se­hats, mainly. Dis­cuss.

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