RELATED CONTENT: Princes Hwy upgrade raises Kiama Bends crash fears
Injury crashes have plummeted by as much as 90 per cent as a result of upgrades to the Princes Highway to the north of Jervis Bay, according to the latest National Roads & Motorists Association review of the Princes Highway.
The NRMA review compared the most recent five year data provided by the NSW Centre for Road Safety with the previous five years data. It assessed 428km of the highway from Dapto to the NSW/ Victorian border.
It tells a tale of two roads, with almost 300 km of the Highway south of Jervis Bay Road classed as high risk, compared with just over 30km in the northern section.
It also reveals the huge benefits from investing in safer roads, with injury crashes plummeting by as much as 90 per cent as a result of recent highway upgrades.
The review found that rerouting and upgrading the highway to a dual lane divided carriageway between Oak Flats and Kiama slashed injury crashes by 48 over the five year period to 2012.
In contrast, there are 16 sections of the Highway to the south of Jervis Bay Road that continue to be rated a high risk for motorists. Together these 16 sections resulted in 523 injury crashes and 22 fatal crashes in the same period.
- From 2008-2012 there were 1,014 casualty crashes resulting in 45 deaths and 1,401 injuries (2003-2007 there were 1,015 casualty crashes, 64 deaths; 1,441 injuries);
- Three-quarters (75%) of all injury crashes occurred on undivided sections of the highway, rising to almost 90 per cent (89%) in rural sections;
- Upgrades to the Highway mean that nearly one-fifth (18%) of the Highway is now rated by the Australian Roads Assessment Program (AusRAP) as low or medium-low risk, almost double the amount from the previous five years (9%);
- The proportion of the Highway that is now classed as high risk has increased to 77% (64% 2003-2007) reflecting an increase in traffic and risk on those sections that have still not been upgraded;
- The cost of injury crashes on the Princes Highway through lost productivity and the provision of emergency, health and welfare services has fallen to $483 million (2003-07: $610 million).
NRMA local Director Alan Evans said the Princes Highway Audit painted a clear contrast of the broad benefits achieved when government invested in the road network.
“Sections of the Princes Highway that have been upgraded have seen a dramatic fall in fatalities and injuries and reduced congestion – as well as delivering economic benefits to local businesses,” Mr Evans said.
“The fact that injury crashes fell by almost 90 per cent along certain upgraded sections highlights the enormous benefits that can be achieved when we invest in fixing dangerous roads.
“By contrast, sections of the Highway - particularly south of Jervis Bay - that haven’t been upgraded continue to claim innocent lives at an alarming rate.”
The NRMA review identifies a possible staged approach to the Albion Park Bypass that would help to keep people moving in the short term before the full bypass is constructed.
It also suggests ways to improve the approach to the North Kiama exit ramp, which would reduce confusion for motorists and reduce the risk of rear-end collisions and traffic congestion.
The audit also revealed that while traffic volumes south of Jervis Bay may not justify the complete upgrade to dual lane divided carriageway, two-by-one lane upgrades divided by crash barriers and greater use of wire rope crash barriers would considerably reduce crash rates and save lives.
“This report provides the government with clear measures to build on the good work undertaken in recent years to make the Princes Highway safer, less congested and a better asset for local communities and businesses along the South Coast,” Mr Evans said.
“The Pacific Highway has taken too long to upgrade and as a result too many lives have been lost – we don’t want to repeat these mistakes with the Princes Highway.”