Rise in NSW roadside fatalities prompts action

Worrying signs have emerged in statistics for roadside and emergency-lane fatalities involving trucks

Rise in NSW roadside fatalities prompts action
Rise in NSW roadside fatalities prompts action
By Rob McKay | January 30, 2013

Worrying signs have emerged in statistics for roadside and emergency-lane fatalities involving trucks.

While the numbers are relatively small, New South Wales is experiencing a slow rise in fatal roadside crashes, with trucks involved in the majority, while all emergency lane fatalities in Victoria in the five years 2007-2011 involved heavy vehicles.

The fatalities prompted NSW to produce the Breakdown Safety Guide for motorists just before Christmas, with Roads Minister Duncan Gay highlighting the deaths of a tow truck driver and the motorist he was helping when they were hit by a truck.

Gay points out that between 2007 and 2011, there were 146 crashes in breakdown situations with eight people killed and 104 injured. Preliminary crash data for 2012 up to midnight on December 11 shows there had been four breakdown crashes with five people killed.

But NSW Department of Transport figures sought by ATN show that more trucks than cars are involved in fatal breakdown-lane crashes between 2007 and the end of last year: seven trucks, four heavy and two light, compared with four cars.

Total fatalities for the period numbered 11.

Five people were killed in NSW last year in four breakdown-lane crashes and the number has grown gradually from 2008 when no such fatalities were recorded.

While such incidents may tend to be more deadly when trucks are involved because of the vehicles’ greater weight and size, the department is concerned at the broad trend.

"There has been an increase in these types of crashes, which is why the Breakdown Safety Guide is so important," a department spokesman says.

"It is also important heavy vehicle drivers are aware of the dangers of slipping into a breakdown lane where there is a broken down vehicle and someone is waiting for help."

VicRoads figures show there were seven heavy vehicles involved in 2007-2011 fatal emergency-lane crashes: two heavy rigids, three semi-trailers and two B-doubles.

While figures for NSW and Victoria are quite basic, statistics in other states are no more comprehensive.

The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads figures, which measure "hit parked vehicle type crashes, where the speed limit was 80km/h or greater", show a fairly variable rate of crashes. While the trend was downward, fatalities alternated between one and two a year since 2007, when there were four.

Against those figures, total national road deaths hit 1,300 last year, compared with 1,277 in 2011.

Despite the up-tick, the trend here remains in a slow downward glide.

In launching the NSW guide, Gay chose a truck crash to highlight the issue.

"This is a serious issue on our roads which was highlighted in February [2012] with the tragic deaths of Sarah Frazer and Geoff Clark on the Hume Highway near Mittagong," he says.

"There are too many of these types of crashes occurring on our roads.

"Not all breakdowns happen in a breakdown lane, however we see people using breakdown lanes to make social mobile phone calls, resting or attending to children. These are high speed environments which should be used only in the case of an emergency."

Gay says the NSW Government is aiming to show road users how they can improve their safety if their vehicle breaks down or they pass someone who has broken down.

"The guide recommends drivers carry high visibility vests and warning triangles in their vehicles, especially if they are caught in low light conditions," he says.

"It also has a variety of scenarios where they can learn what to do with advice from the Centre from Road Safety."

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