Study reveals factors causing serious injuries on Victorian roads

Roads & Infrastructure Magazine speaks to Monash University’s David Logan about the lifesaving effects of flexible safety barriers on Australian roads.A Monash university study of 400 seriously injured drivers has revealed the major causes of serious injuries on Victorian roads.

The Enhanced Crash Investigation Study (ECIS), gave researchers access to 400 seriously injured drivers to understand the factors and severity of their crashes.

Conducted by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) and funded by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), the study gained information from crashes that took place across Victoria between August 2014 and December 2016.

Results showed various factors that lead to the crash and impact severity. For example, 45 per cent of crashes involved the driver having no time to break and 55 per cent of crashes where a driver braked, they only did so for 1.3 seconds.

Road infrastructure was found to play a part in the occurrence of 28.8 per cent of crashes, but this was a more common factor in lane departure and across path crashes as opposed to rear impact crashes.

MUARC chief investigator Associate Professor Michael Fitzharris said the research team saw first-hand the effects of high-speed crashes.

“The research also shows the limits and inability of vehicles to protect drivers from serious injury in high speed crashes. The need to create safe roads by matching speed limits to the road infrastructure is critical,” Associate Professor Fitzharris said.

In total, the study looked at over 180 possible contributing factors for a crash, reconstructing each crash using sophisticated 3D software.

Road surface condition was found to have been a infrastructure contributing factor in 6.4 per cent of all crashes, both road design and road structure were found to contribute to 8.1 per cent of crashes and road signage/navigation contributed to 11.2 per cent.

There were also a range of driver performance factors found to have contributed to the crashes. For example driver drowsiness was seen in 25 per cent of all crashes and was higher in run-off-road crashes. Exceeding the speed limit was found to be the most common non-compliant behaviour in the study’s crashes at 26.2 per cent.

Vehicle age and ANCAP safety ratings were also found to play a role in the severity of injuries.

“What we saw was that even for the nearly 60 per cent of crashes where the involved driver(s) met all the criteria of being a Safe Driver, crashes still occurred and drivers were seriously injured,” Associate Professor Fitzharris said.

“This shows the need to focus on long-term sustainable solutions that will protect drivers from being seriously injured when crashes occur. Clearly though, immediate actions including measures to improve driver compliance and those focused on reducing the speeds at which vehicles crash is needed.”

The goal of the study was to identify measures that can be increased in Victoria, which could help to prevent serious injuries in the future.

“Our findings show that the potential to reduce the number of drivers and passengers injured on Victorian roads is significant. Ultimately, with the right settings, the study shows that eliminating serious injury from crashes is possible. This is an important finding of global significance,” Associate Professor Fitzharris said.

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