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Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Signs and road safety

I have ceased to be surprised by the strange wording one sees on Australian notices. Yesterday, for example, I went out to post a letter. I wanted to know when it would arrive. Among the delivery schedule information was the assertion that, in remote country areas, mail would be delivered on the forth (sic) business day after posting. This notice, I suspect, is to be found on very many postboxes throughout Australia.

Then there is one of my personal favourites that I have come across many times. It accompanies other signs about roadworks. 'No lines; overtake only if safe,' it proclaims in effect.

At first, I just took note of the warning. Later, I took exception to it: why shouldn’t I overtake into danger if I wanted to? What is so special about the lack of lines that make it important to warn against dangerous overtaking? Did the idiot who phrased it think lack of road markings the most dangerous feature to be found on Australian roads? Is it somehow all right to overtake dangerously, as I constantly want to, when the road is clearly marked?

I have commented before that someone needs to give Australian road management authorities a good kick in the goolies. They should be replaced, perhaps at the federal rather than state level, with someone who understands the problems of traffic management in Australia as so few locals do – someone from abroad, perhaps.

This is not as radical as it sounds: often one comes across road improvements funded by central government rather than by state authorities. Notices sometimes proclaim that the finance is being provided by the federal government on safety grounds. This intimates that they are aware of the state-level problems. Couldn’t the central government be more insistent about the tune if they are paying the piper?

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