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Monday, January 06, 2003
Some more motoring comments

You may think me obsessional about some aspects of motoring down under but some things strike me as strange and/or misguided. Here are three interesting features about motoring in South Australia. Firstly, the positions of mobile radar speed traps are published. They are announced regularly on TV news programmes, 'in the interest of road safety'. Apparently, this is done with the active cooperation of the police. Well, I'll be hornswoggled...

The second feature is the practical effort put into persuading drivers to rest on long drives: the police sponsor rest areas where free tea and coffee are available to drivers who stop. This is an excellent idea and I sought to avail myself of the offer while on a long journey a few days ago.

Unfortunately, the practice is not up to the theory. I had taken note of a rest area, advertising free tea or coffee at regular intervals over about ten km. However, when I came to the advertised stopping place, there was no refreshment to be had - the facility had presumably closed for the day. What is worse, the rest area was on the opposite side of the road. I do not think it appropriate to encourage motorists to cross oncoming traffic, especially when this is done in the interests of road safety.

Finally, there are periodic notices beside some roads saying that many people have been injured or killed in traffic accidents along the given stretch of road. The effect is enhanced by small markers placed where the accidents took place: red for injury and black for fatality.

I object to this method of dealing with the subject, not because of its ghoulish nature but because I believe it is counterproductive. The markers are no bigger than those used to delineate the road’s edge. Consequently, they are very difficult to see, the black markers particularly so, although they are sometimes identifiable by attendant wreaths or bunches of flowers. As it happens, most of these marked sections are on long, straight, boring pieces of road. One can but wonder why people would have accidents on long, straight, boring pieces of road. Could it be that their attention wanders? Could it be that drivers’ attention is diverted from the proper task of watching the road ahead?

These roadside markers are a distraction; anything that makes a driver look to one side instead of straight ahead is ill-considered. If they cannot be made large enough to be noticeable from 100 metres, e.g. with full sized ‘coffin lids’, they should be abandoned. Perhaps the bereaved could apply some pressure in this respect.

Think about it carefully, South Australia.

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