Many head-on collisions could be easily prevented by installing barriers between opposing lanes of traffic, says a leading road safety expert.
Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of the car buyers’ Dog & Lemon Guide, says that it’s not good enough to simply blame bad driving for the road toll.
Matthew-Wilson gave the example of the Auckland harbour bridge, which used to suffer one serious road accident every week.
“After a barrier was installed down the middle, the accidents stopped immediately. There wasn’t one less hoon or drunk driver, and yet the accidents stopped immediately. That’s the way the entire road system needs to be set up.”
A significant percentage of the annual road toll involves collisions caused by one vehicle moving into the path of another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction.
Barriers between the two opposing lanes of traffic are a proven and effective way of stopping head-on collisions.
Where long stretches of road are involved, wire rope barriers are both cheap and effective. Plastic covers can be installed over wire rope barriers to protect motorcyclists.
Although wire rope barriers are already installed in some places, Matthew-Wilson says that in most cases the barriers are not installed because they would slow down traffic, especially trucks.
“Everyone agrees that separating opposing lanes of traffic prevents head-on collisions. I was gob-smacked to hear a government engineer tell me that the reason that more roads don’t have a wire rope barrier is because the barrier would slow large trucks down. I don’t think the trucking industry should be dictating government road safety policy.”
The Road Transport Forum, which represents the trucking industry, was a major donor to political parties at the last election, contributing nearly $100,000 to Labour, National and also to individual MPs.