Should the highway speed limit be reduced to 80kph at the Tuross intersection?
As many locals know earlier this month there was an accident at the Tuross Head highway intersection. Fortunately there were no fatalities however both the drivers were left battered and bruised with one suffering cracking of the spine.
For many years this intersection has been of considerable concern to those who leave Tuross heading in a northerly direction towards Moruya. Anecdotally there have been many “near misses” though fortunately only a few collisions formally recorded.
Many of our older residents advise that they perceive the traffic coming from the north as speeding and that they only have seconds to go from a standing start to then cross the southbound lane and merge immediately with traffic going north.
The RMS have advised (you can find it at the bottom of this article) that they carried out a review of the intersection and found it was compliant with the design rules. At best they might consider changing the current GIVE WAY sign to a STOP sign.
The fact is that the intersection is perceived by many older residents who use it as dangerous. Vehicles coming from the north at 100kph arrive at the intersection in six seconds. However the driver turning north towards Moruya has to also consider a vehicle coming from the south. Having checked towards the south they then they have to reassess with a look to the north again as there could now be more traffic coming from that direction. Maybe to the average motorist these calculations are simple and making the turn north is just a matter of patience and opportunity. To older drivers it is not as simple as they have slower reflexes and less confidence that can result in double thinking or hesitation.
A car approaching from the north at 100kph arrives at the intersection in 5 seconds from first being seen. At 100kph that car needs 170m to stop if the driver does so within 2.5 seconds of seeing a car pull into its path.
The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities (NAASRA) defines sight distance as the distance a vehicle will travel before coming to rest under hard braking after first seeing a hazard in the roadway. It is calculated using a reaction time of 2.5 sec, longitudinal friction factor of 0.5, and an approximate operating speed (km/h). A reaction time of 2.0 sec is used for roads with speeds less than 100 km/h
The sight distance of the driver coming from the north is 200m.
Anecdotally local motorcyclists and professional drivers are very wary of the Tuross traffic turning north and there have been many near misses because of driver impatience or poor decision making.
Tuross Head has the oldest demographic in the Shire. There is no public transport and, as a result there are many older drivers in the town who hold Modified Licences that allow them to drive in a limited radius (which includes Moruya) and only at particular times of the day.
A letter to the Eurobodalla Traffic Committee in early 2016 requested that they have the RMS undertake a review of the highway speed limit (100kph) in the context of stopping distances to ensure these were compliant. The letter sought the assistance of Clr Danielle Brice to offer that the intersection might be considered dangerous and worthy of considered improvements in light of our population growing older and traffic volumes increasing, especially in holiday periods.
The Bay Post reported the then Chairman of the traffic committee, Councillor Neil Burnside said “there has not been a serious accident at the intersection since 2006. “If you look at the statistics, which are based on people taken to hospital after an accident, only two accidents have occurred at that intersection in ten years,” he said. Cr Burnside said at first glance, it “didn’t look like a big issue”. “There is turning lanes on the left and the right,” he said. “More warning signs may need to be put in place to warn people an intersection is coming up. “It is pretty well sign posted though.”
There were some interesting comments posted online about the request for a reduction in the speed limit in the area around the intersection.
“Nothing wrong with the intersection that care, manners and the sense to look both ways before you enter the highway and for god's sake do not get on the bloody highway and then putt along at 70/80 kl/h There is ample vision with plenty of room on the verges so stop blaming the road and look more closely at the driver’s ability or lack of! “ Other comments about the Princes Highway and Tuross Intersection included: It's not the highway traffic staying within the 100kph speed limit that causes the problems at this intersection - they can be seen and anticipated before moving out of Hector McWilliam Drive - it's the yobboes who exceed the limit! Doesn't matter what the intersection is you cannot help idiots who regardless how good the vision they will still pull out in front of traffic without due consideration to the speed of the oncoming traffic. Dropping the speed limit for a short section will accomplish nothing but a revenue raiser for the radar traps! Leave it as it is and drive responsibly.That intersection needs a roundabout, or lower the speed limit for that section only, a slower speed limit (80km) for the 30 seconds isn't going to disadvantage anyone, but sure will save lives. Speed limit needs to be reduced around that intersection. 80km would be so much safer, especially during holiday times.Reducing the speed is not going to stop the issue; people are still going to cut in front of cars and cause accidents because they are being impatient. The most compelling comment however was this one: I write this with a first hand experience of this issue. I was involved in the recent accident at the Tuross intersection, and wanted to share a few things that perhaps aren't so clear. It seems from this article and another that many people think the issue lays with the speed limit of drivers travelling along the highway. I do agree that some people do seem impatient and attempt overtaking when perhaps not necessary; I have driven this road countless times and have seen it myself: but in this case, I was that driver travelling South along the highway with knowledge of this driving under the speed limit, when the driver at fault pulled onto the highway out of Tuross last second, not checking right, resulting in myself having no time to stop and prevent the accident.In this particular case, it is not the issue of reducing a speed limit but a momentary lapse in the basic fundamentals of safe driving and "checking each way before you cross". I do not write this holding any grudges. I understand that this is an unfortunate accident and do not have hard feelings towards the other driver causing this. My intentions with this post is to raise awareness so no one else can sustain the injuries that I do, or worse.I do agree with those saying that reducing the speed limit will incur delays and therefore could lead to drivers becoming more impatient, and signage was certainly not to blame in this case. Accidents can happen anywhere. But I do believe that perhaps Tuross residents would benefit from public transport.With an ever ageing population residing in Tuross, it does pose an issue for those trying to get into Moruya. Chairman of the traffic committee, Councillor Neil Burnside said there has not been a serious accident at the intersection since 2006."" "If you look at the statistics, which are based on people taken to hospital after an accident, only two accidents have occurred at that intersection in ten years," he said." "Cr Burnside said at first glance, it "didn't look like a big issue". "There is turning lanes on the left and the right," he said. These quotes from the article may show some merit but not in this case. Looking at these statistics doesn't change the fact that there has been instances. Will it finally look like a "big issue' if there were a fatality? The turning lanes did not play a part in this accident. As I stated earlier, it was a lapse in judgement from the other driver, and could perhaps be something that the available use of public transport may prevent in the future. The above was sent to the Tuross Giant. Name and address withheld by editor. The Bay Post reported on October 13th, 2015: A Roads and Maritime Services spokeswoman said they had reviewed the intersection earlier this year.“RMS found the 100 kilometre per hour speed limit, line marking and sign posting was appropriate,” she said. “When determining and reviewing speed limits, crash history, road alignment and the level of development taking place are all considered. “In the ten years from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2014 there were three recorded crashes, including one injury crash.”
Below is a response from RMS regarding the Hector McWilliam Drive intersection with the Princes Highway and the two accidents up to December 2015.
NSW GOVERNMENT Transport Roads & Maritime Services
Re: PRINCES HIGHWAY AT HECTOR MCWILLIAM DRIVE
I refer to your letter, dated 8 October 2015, regarding safety on the Princes Highway at its intersection with Hector McWilliam Drive, Tuross Head.
Your request for a lower speed zone along the Princes Highway in the vicinity of the intersection has been considered. Current practice is that speed zones are not installed for isolated hazards or intersections along the road network. To do so would result in frequent changes in speed limit that would cause undue confusion to drivers. The philosophy is that a speed zone should reflect the level of development along an entire section of road to ensure that drivers perceive the need for the speed zone and to encourage high levels of compliance. On both approaches to Hector McWilliam Drive there are very few private accesses and no other intersections, consistent with the present 100km/h speed zone. As such, a lower speed zone is unableto be supported.
The preferred approach to raising awareness of an intersection is with advance warning signage. The existing signage approaching the intersection has been reviewed. Presently there are brown and blue tourist signs indicating Tuross Head located some 430m south and 450m north from the intersection on the approaches.
There are also green guide signs indicating Tuross Head located some 110m south and 150m north from the intersection on the approaches. Combined, these signs provide a high level of awareness of the intersection and should alert drivers to take extra care. However, the green guide signs would be more ideally located some 200m from the intersection, and this enhancement is proposed. I anticipate that this will occur by the end of March 2016.
I can advise that a review of reported crashes has been undertaken at the intersection. During the most recent five year period for which data is available, there has been one non-casualty crash reported.
I do acknowledge that there have been two recent crashes on 6 October and 8 December which are not reflected in these statistics. Discussion with Police has revealed that in both recent instances a driver exiting Hector McWilliam Drive has failed to adequately check before turning.
An assessment has been undertaken of the current intersection layout. It is noted that sight distance to the north from the intersection is around 200m due to the limitation of a crest, and approximately 330m to the south. Even the shorter distance should allow time for a driver to react and brake to a stop if necessary.
There is a channelised right turn bay for northbound traffic entering Hector McWilliam Drive and an auxiliary left turn lane for southbound traffic entering Hector McWilliam Drive.
Observation of traffic movements indicates that these are appropriate treatments for the traffic volumes. Further, there were observed to be frequent suitable gaps in traffic for traffic to safely exit Hector McWilliam Drive
The intersection presently has give way control. Stop controls are only installed at intersections where there is limited sight available from the side road. In this case the available sight along the Princes Highway both to the north and south exceeds the requirements for a stop control, and therefore a give way control remains appropriate. It is however proposed to replace the existing give way sign with a larger sign to reinforce the need to give way. It is anticipated that this will occur by the end of March 2016. The give way lines have been recently remarked and are in good condition.
Should you wish to discuss this matter further, please contact Mr xxxxx, of Roads and Maritime.
Yours sincerely Xxx Yyyy, Network and Safety Services Network Management,
Southern Region Roads & Maritime Services; Level 4, 90 Crown Street. Wollongong NSW 2500 I PO Box 477 East Wollongong NSW 2520