Opinion, Rod Hannifey

Let’s stop the carnage – Eyes on the Road

Eyes on the Road

By the time you read this it’s likely the National Road Freighters Association (NRFA) conference at Shepparton will be done and of course, then all the unseen the work behind the scenes will ramp up to follow up on all the discussion and issues raised at the conference.

No matter what you see of any association, so much of the work is done behind the scenes and with little recognition or support, unless you have paid staff or other members who help with that side of things.

Even being on the board, the time for meetings and then doing all the stuff to make anything happen, let alone to actually get some things even underway, can be time consuming.

But if no one does any of this, do you think the authorities or the government will simply think, we should help, fix, change, improve or even recognise road transport? If you think that, Santa will be here again soon.

I was contacted by the local Dubbo newspaper as someone involved with road safety and asked would I like to comment on the road toll. Yes, I would. Unless you have not seen or heard the news in any shape or form, it is getting worse and we have had a bad start to the year.

I had gone past a crash site just west of Gilgandra where there had been a fatality and there were still police and road workers with more heading out to clean up the site. It’s then you think of the loss of life, the damage to those involved but who survive and what happened to cause it?

I raised a number of points, including the fact I watch every driver coming towards me now to see if they are looking at the road. Phone use while driving can and does kill. In the past people held them up or under their ear and were at least still looking at the road and the traffic. Any movement caught their vision and you hoped they reacted.

Now with the fines and penalties and cameras, it is often concerning to see people looking down beside the seat or in under the wheel, to use their phone while driving and trying to avoid detection.

They are not looking where they are going or what they are about to run into and when they eventually look up, it can be too late. Cheap cradles solve part of the problem and we know common sense, which would make most people recognise they are moving and should be looking where they are going, seems to have been lost.

The importance of texting or scrolling when in traffic is bloody stupid and could cost you and or someone else their life.

But of course, “It won’t happen to me” and, “I am smarter, cleverer, better than all those other people who have crashes while on the phone”, which means many still do it. I don’t have a solution, but fear for the fact it seems to be getting worse.

Road sharing

This leads to another issue and one I have banged on about for years and that is we do not teach young drivers about sharing the road with trucks.

They play video games for years where the more laws you break and the more people you kill, the more points you get. Then we teach them just enough to drive, not how to survive on the road for the next 50 years, then we let them loose.

How many dashcam videos have you watched (and how many times have you seen it on the road) where you see the car wait, then at the last second or well after they may have got away with it, pull out in front of another car or truck?

Yes, the flaws come from being human, we all make mistakes and I hope you would all agree that more knowledge and education before going on the road is better than learning as you die.

Many years ago, I complained to the road authority about traffic lights around a blind corner where we travelled to load fuel in Newcastle. We were going in empty, it was in a 70km/h zone and there were so many skid marks on the road they covered the whole lane.

I never got the crash data or anything but I explained the problem from a truckie’s point of view and, eventually, they installed the yellow flashing warning lights before the corner to warn you the lights had changed.

That same idea was then used on some rail crossings. In the past truckies have died hitting trains. One issue I raised was the fact that over the years, trees had grown and removed the line of sight on some crossings to the point you don’t see the train until it is nearly there at the crossing.

This is much more a rural issue and of course, a spot where there is less trains and less likely to have warning lights and or boom gates.

I would like to know who in the transport industry was consulted when they decided to bring in the 80km/h zones at rail crossings? Yes at some, it might help, but what does the train do to improve safety? Do they slow down? Of course not, that would cost them money and time.

But what about our money and time when every single vehicle has to slow (and if you don’t, I am sure some local coppers will think it easy money to fine you) when there might be one train a day or week. “No, let’s do it everywhere.” Why not fix the line of sight and install similar early warning lights when you can’t see the line or the train?

How do we stop the carnage on the road, our workplace and when will it be recognised as such?

ROD HANNIFEY, a transport safety advocate, has been involved in raising the profile of the industry, conducting highway truck audits, the Blue Reflector Trial for informal parking bays on the Newell, the ‘Truckies on Road Code’, the national 1800 number for road repairs proposal, and the Better Roadside Rest Areas Group. Rod is the current president of the NRFA. Contact Rod on 0428 120 560, e-mail
rod.hannifey@bigpond.com or visit
www.truckright.com.au

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