By Jeremy Rochow
Published: Tuesday, June 9, 2020
About 50,000 vehicles – including more than 4000 trucks and buses – travel along the South Eastern Fwy daily, making safety a major priority.
The route is important for freight and tourism, connecting South Australia with Victoria, and is a vital thoroughfare for Adelaide Hills residents.
That’s why RAA reviewed the road, which stretches 76km from Glen Osmond to Monteith near Murray Bridge.
As part of the review, the South Eastern Fwy’s road quality and signage were assessed, and Adelaide Hills residents were asked what concerned them most about the freeway.
Driver behaviour was a major issue for survey respondents, with three quarters saying their biggest problems were motorists tailgating and failing to keep left.
While the state government has already committed to upgrading the Heysen Tunnels and completing essential road surface maintenance, RAA has made several recommendations to further improve safety along the freeway.
1. Improve the descent into Adelaide for trucks or offer alternate routes
In August 2014, a truck careened down the freeway crashing into traffic at Portrush Rd, killing 2 people.
While this might’ve been one of the most tragic crashes on the South Eastern Fwy, it’s not an isolated incident.
In 2019 a truck hit 6 vehicles, including a minibus, at the base of the freeway – thankfully nobody was seriously injured.
The freight route between Murray Bridge and Truro should be upgraded, with roads widened and shoulders sealed, to encourage more heavy vehicles to bypass the freeway altogether.
Thankfully, there has been a government commitment to spend $12m upgrading this route.
In the long term, RAA believes there needs to be an alternate route for heavy vehicles to reduce traffic on the lower section of the SE Freeway.
If heavy vehicles continue travelling down the freeway, more safety devices are needed.
State government commitment
The freight route between Murray Bridge and Truro will receive this much funding for repairs.
An additional safety ramp should be installed towards the end of the freeway, including a dragnet system to stop runaway vehicles.
On top of that, intelligent transport systems that detect and display vehicles’ speed (in real-time) should be set up.
These could even be programmed to direct a warning message to speeding vehicles and can tell heavy vehicles to use a safety ramp if needed.
2. Upgrade interchanges
RAA has several recommendations to improve on and off-ramps along the South Eastern Fwy to make them safer.
Freeway on and off-ramps at Bridgewater, Verdun and Mount Barker need to be lengthened to give drivers more time to safely enter the freeway.
Roundabouts and give way signs should be installed at various interchanges, while the speed limit on Jervois Rd at the Swanport interchange (Murray Bridge) should be reviewed.
3. Install better signage on the descent into Adelaide
Despite there being numerous speed limit signs on the descent towards Portrush Rd, RAA believes overhead digital signs would better highlight the speed limit, particularly for motorists in the centre lane who might have their view obscured by other vehicles.
A warning sign is also needed early in the descent, letting heavy-vehicle drivers know about an upcoming parking area. Here, they can stop to check their brakes and load stability before completing the descent into Adelaide.
4. Improve pedestrian safety at the Portrush and Cross Rd intersection
It’s not just motorists who need to be kept safe on the road. Pedestrians do too.
The South Eastern Fwy ends in a residential area where Portrush Rd, Glen Osmond Rd and Cross Rd meet. This means pedestrians crossing a busy intersection from multiple directions.
To improve safety, pedestrian refuges should be set back from the intersection where possible, so people aren’t too close to the road while waiting to cross.
The staged pedestrian crossings should be staggered to increase the spacing between pedestrians waiting in refuges and turning vehicles.