Monday, March 12, 2007

Sound familiar?

I had to smile when I read this report in the Sydney Morning Herald about driving standards on my local freeway.

The F3: fast, furious and frustrating

Jordan Baker, Transport Reporter
March 12, 2007

IT'S the Australian way: get there first and get there fast. And on our highways we truly outdo ourselves in the winner-takes-all stakes.

Drivers in Europe stick to slow or fast lanes and overtake on the correct side; Australians, however, drive all over the place, and nowhere is this more evident than on the F3 between Wahroonga and Newcastle. Last month four accidents closed the highway in three days, and there is no viable alternative route.

Ken Dobinson, a former Roads and Traffic Authority director who designed the F3, said it was notorious for poor lane discipline. Trucks and cars weave around each other, infuriating other drivers and causing accidents.

"[Eliminating that] wouldn't reduce the traffic jams but … there would be [fewer] accidents if you had better lane discipline. That road [the F3] desperately needs signs that restrict trucks to the left-hand lane and only let trucks overtake in the middle lane. That would go a long way to solving the problems."

Photo: Ben Rushton. SMH

Mr Dobinson said when multiple-lane roads were introduced to Australia little attention was given to developing a culture of lane etiquette. Now poor discipline was a bad habit.

"With a freeway system in Sydney … we should … put this attitude to people that you never overtake on the left-hand side of the vehicle."

The penalty for "lane hogging" was increased from $130 to $231 and from two to three demerit points in 2005. That year 1029 people were fined under three offences of failing to keep left on a road. Last year the figure was 1234, NSW Police said.

The police traffic services commander, Chief Superintendent John Hartley, said motorists were required to stick to the left lane when driving on a multiple-lane road with a speed limit of 80 kmh or more. When they did not, it frustrated other drivers, prompting them to break road rules to get past.

But it was a difficult law to police. "You've got to stop motorists on busy highways where there's nowhere to pull over," Superintendent Hartley said. "Safety is paramount, so if officers can't stop safely they won't proceed."

The driving is as they describe, but it's heaven compared to Dubai's driving. Lane discipline is haphazard at best, but the other problems we have here of excessive speed, red light jumping, hard shoulder driving, the naked aggression to push in front, dangerous and illegal U-turning, are thankfully very rarely seen.


nzm said...

I've driven that part of the highway many times, and it's one of the pieces of roads where I'm constantly on the alert because of the idiocy that I see around me.

I actually feel more vulnerable on that road than I do when driving in Dubai - maybe it's because of the high rock walls which make it appear to be more dangerous or confined?

Seabee said...

Yes, it does seem to hem you in between the rocks with nowhere to go.