OPINION: Keeping safety at bay

By: Rod Hannifey


Stopping bays are a right, not a luxury.

OPINION: Keeping safety at bay
Rest stops are a RIGHT

 

Goodaye all. With the release of the rest area guidelines, I spoke with Austroads, asking was there any guidelines for STOPPING Bays.

I was told ,no and asked to formally submit a request with my reasons for same and did so that week.

My reason for asking, was a trip where there were quite a number of unmarked bays, barely large enough for a truck and certainly not wide enough to get safely off the road.

These seem to appear in groups, then there are none for possibly hundreds of kilometres.

Whilst even our green reflector bays have guidelines for safe line of site and being suitably sized for a vehicle using that road, these unmarked sites appear west of Hay, north of West Wyalong, north of Jerilderie and in other places.

There are a number south of Roma, though the ones there are shown by guideposts along the outside edge, so further off the road than all the rest and these are all marked with 3,2, then 1, green reflectors.

Being unmarked, these other bays are not that much use in the daytime and near useless at night, as you don’t know they are there.

Major highways do have marked stopping bays.

When the Pacific was first opened north of Newcastle, those bays were only marked at the site itself and within weeks, there were many skidmarks, from trucks trying to stop at the last second, to pull up.

I rang the RTA and explained that trucks too, needed to stop at times for any number of reasons and suggested signs placed before these bays, so they could be accessed by all safely.

That was done and now seems to be fairly well standardised. But are there guidelines for them and should they include these small unmarked bays?

I used to do a lot of work up through Moonie to Gladstone and there were a lot of sites north of Dingo I saw one trip further north and when I rang and asked TMR who put them in and why they were there, I was told the Police had complained of nowhere to pull trucks over, so funding was provided for many small bays.

The problem again, is that there are many of these bays, unmarked and all barely safe enough to stop in, let alone sleep in.

My view, is that instead of all these half arsed sites every 5 k or less in some places, we should have a suitable site every 15 k, that will allow you not only to stop and be safely off the road, not just 10 centimetres from the fogline as all these seem to be, but to be far enough of the road to sleep or kip if needed, do a repair or whatever, but safely clear of traffic.

The green reflector bays came from a trip where I was on a road I was not familiar with and needing to stop and sleep.

Without knowing where and when the next rest area was, I passed a number of spots where, with some warning, I could have stopped and had 15 minutes kip or a Power Nap, which the authorities are happy to promote, to get me safely to the next formal rest area where I could have a decent sleep.

If you know a road well, you can have some idea of these informal bays, but over time and in speaking with other drivers, many have said that you can be fit and feeling fine, pass a rest area with the intent to stop later and the  get tired and need to pull up, whether to have that Power Nap, or to get out and walk round the truck to freshen yourself enough to get to the next formal rest area.

The problem of course, is that there are not enough rest areas. Those designed for cars with all the facilities, toilets and shade are either designed not to allow trucks in, or signed "NO TRUCKS".

All the money spent on those car only facilities is then wasted for half the 24 hours, as few car drivers will sleep in them alone at night.

Many car drivers will go to a truck bay to sleep at night if needed, feeling safer knowing trucks will likely come and go during the night.

Of course many don’t pull up when they need it, are not used to driving all night, but have to be there in the morning and when you talk to late night servo staff, they often say they have seen drivers nearly asleep at the counter, who head off to drive for hours and there is nothing they can do to prevent it.

Some of those drivers will fall asleep and we can only try to educate all drivers about the issues of fatigue and then make sure they have somewhere to stop and rest/sleep as needed.

I will again pursue Austroads, will ask all of our associations to get behind seeing more done to help us operate safely and be able to manage our fatigue on the road.

The ATA, NATROAD and many of the state bodies have been very vocal and are now behind the push for more and better rest areas, but we need enough to never have to say, I had to keep going, as there was nowhere to stop safely.

We are nowhere near that and I recognise, there are not millions of dollars waiting to be put into rest areas, but informal green reflector bays can be done quickly and cheaply as an interim, we will have marked spots to stop and as funding is available, these can be upgraded and expanded.

I have one aim, I never want to hear of a fatigue crash again and never want to be in that position of having nowhere to stop safely.

What will you do to help me achieve this? Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey.

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