A new study has called for extensive safety upgrades to the Princes Highway due to high levels of risk borne by lengthy stretches of its southern segment.
The latest review of the Princes Highway by NRMA said that those parts of the Princes Highway that run along the south coast remain extremely hazardous for motorists.
“South of Jervis Bay road, the Princes Highway remains to a large extent a death trap,” said NRMA South Coast director Alan Evans in the report.
The report points to the number of deaths and accidents that have occurred on the highway in the past few years.
“Tragically, 45 people died and a further 1401 were injured on the Princes Highway over the five year period 2008 – 2012. already this year, eight people have lost their lives,” it states.
According to Evans, the report tells a “tale of two roads,” with huge differences in safety quality between the northern and southern sections. Nearly 300 kilometres of the Princes Highway south of Jervis is categorised as high risk, as compared to only 30 kilometres to the north.
While the proportion of the highway categorised as low or medium-low risk by the Australian Roads Assessment program has increased dramatically, doubling from nine per cent to nearly 18 per cent in the five-year period from 2008 to 2012, the proportion considered high risk has also increased – rising from 64 per cent in 2003 to 2007 to 77 per cent.
The southern parts which have yet to be upgraded have become more dangerous due to increases in traffic levels.
“In the 300 km south of Nowra, there’s now an even higher risk because there is more traffic coming through and work hasn’t been done,” said Evans. “It really needs to be upgraded.”
This disparity between north and south bodes well, however, for future efforts to reduce risk on the highway, given the remarkable success of measures already introduced elsewhere.
“The fact that injury crashes fell by almost 90 per cent along certain upgraded sections highlights the enormous benefits that can be achieved when we invest in fixing dangerous roads,” said Evans. “Sections of the Princes Highway that have been upgraded have seen a dramatic fall in fatalities and injuries and reduced congestion – as well as delivering benefits to local businesses.”
The NRMA advocates the installation of more barriers made from wire ropes along the southern tract of the highway, which it claims could reduce the number of injury-causing crashes by around 60 per cent.
While some motorcyclists are opposed to wire rope barriers on the grounds that they are potentially hazardous, the NRMA notes that their review team saw two crashes in a 24-hour period for which the measures spared vehicle occupants from serious injury.
The NRMA has also called for improvements to sections of the highway to the south which are less well frequented, including the creation of two-by-one lanes divided by wire rope parries.
According to Evans, improvements to the Princes Highway are urgently needed given the risk it continues to pose to the lives of motorists.
“The Pacific Highway has taken too long to upgrade and as a result too many lives have been lost – we don’t want to repeat these mistakes with the Princes Highway,” said Evans.
Eden-Monaro MP Dr Peter Hendy has slammed the NRMA for using alarmist language, pointing out that the government has already devoted copious resources to improve the highway.
“To use alarmist language like ‘death trap’ and ‘high risk’ is simply outrageous,” said Hendy. “[This] sort of over-the-top talk…threatens out tourist trade in the run-up to the holidays.”
Hendy noted that Andrew Constance has dedicated $1.1 billion to the Princes Highway over the next decade, and that his government was currently “working with the local experts to determine where funding should be spent.”