VicRoads is stepping up its campaign to remove what it euphemistically terms “Roadside Hazards,” in huge numbers around the State. Ordinary people of course value these “roadside trees”as being intrinsically important to the living environment. An article in the Ballarat Courier quotes the TAC’s new CEO as saying “while some fatalities were due to behaviour like speeding or drink driving, it was time to take a “more systemic view”. By which he presumably means the “systematic attempt to remove roadside trees.”
The “Towards Zero” PR campaign argues that no matter how drunk, drugged, fatigued or inexperienced/poorly skilled a driver is, a road run-off should not result in his/her death. VicRoads has already started removing trees under this program. They have lots more planned at least in the Western District over summer, including “full pavement restorations of Daylesford-Ballarat Road, south of Pootilla, and Ballarat-Maryborough Road in Ascot, with the roads dug up and completely rebuilt,” VicRoads spokesperson Ewen Nevett confessed. “Across 17 sites in Ballarat and surrounding districts, $4 million has been contributed as part of the Federal Blackspot Program for measures such as traffic islands, lane widening and roundabouts at dangerous locations.”
Once all the trees are gone – we will then realise, as researchers do in Norway, that good, straight roads are one of several factors which make drivers fall asleep in front of the wheel. “In 1997, eight percent of Norwegian drivers said they had dozed off in front on the wheel in the past 12 months, and that’s the highest percentage we’ve found on this in Norway,” says Ross Owen Phillips, of The Institute of Transport Economics. “In the US, it’s 29 percent. In the US, many roads are long and straight, which he believes accounts for the higher drowsy driver numbers.
Considerations of safety all depend on your priorities, your world view, and who’s funding you!