By Jeremy Rochow
Published: Thursday, May 14, 2020
There are 1.8 million vehicles registered in SA. About 225,000 people hop on a bicycle each week, and South Aussies take about 61 million trips on buses and trams each year.
But no matter how you choose to get around, we all depend on one thing – our roads.
This edition, we take a look at how the quality of those roads affects everything from your hip pocket to your safety, and why RAA’s been advocating hard for better road maintenance on behalf of our members.
Potholes and rough roads impact us all
Crumbling road edges, potholes and faded line markings might irk you during your daily commute, but once you pull into your driveway or park your car, you probably don’t give them a second thought. But here are 5 key reasons maintenance matters.
1. Your car and wallet
Your car bears the brunt of every rut, crack and bump you drive over. From increasing the wear and tear on your tyres to potentially damaging your suspension, road quality affects the cost of running your car.
2. Fuel bills
Basically, the rougher the road, the harder your car will have to work, meaning your car will burn through more juice.
In fact, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US found rough roads and potholes could increase fuel consumption by up to 4%.
That might not sound like much, but with the average Australian spending $3500 on fuel per year, better roads could save motorists $140 annually.
3. The environment
That extra fuel you use also means more CO2 emissions. According to a study by Rutgers University, smoother roads will help us reduce greenhouse emissions as well.
So, similar to saving fuel with better roads, we’ll also be helping save our planet and emitting less CO2.
It might sound like a small change, but given Australians drive the equivalent of 1000 trips to the sun and back each year, every small change becomes a big one.
SA road fatalities 2019
4. Road safety
Confusing or vanishing line markings, crumbling edges and slippery surfaces can be dangerous for all road users and are just a few examples of how road maintenance affects your safety.
Last year was a horrific year for fatalities and serious injuries on South Australian roads, with 114 people killed and more than 900 seriously injured.
While there are many factors that cause a crash, what we do know, unequivocally, is that better roads save lives.
5. The economy
As well as the immeasurable cost of lives being lost, crashes also cost the country a lot of money.
In fact, road trauma costs the economy about $22 billion a year through factors such as loss of life, an increased demand on health services, vehicle damage and disability care.
Deteriorating roads also make it more difficult for trucks to deliver goods around the country.
Freight traffic is set to increase by 26% in the next 6 years, according to Infrastructure Australia, and poor road maintenance and congestion are some of the biggest challenges facing the industry.
SA's road maintenance backlog
The cost of work that needs to be done on SA roads.
What needs to be done
It’s clear many SA roads – both in metro Adelaide and in rural areas – need work to bring them up to scratch.
In fact, from levelling out bumpy roads to repainting line markings that are hard to see, there’s $723 million worth of work to be done, according the Department for Planning Transport and Infrastructure.
To improve the quality of SA roads, RAA’s asking the state government to increase the road maintenance budget to $160 million a year, up from $110 million in 2019–20.
We’re also advocating for an extra $145 million to be spent on maintenance for the next five years to reduce the backlog of work that needs to be done, plus $20 million for a road-resealing program in the metro area.
Top road issues according to you
A big win for SA
South Australian motorists had an early win in 2020, with the state government announcing in March that it will inject $120 million into several key projects.
The money – fast-tracked to help stimulate the economy during the COVID-19 outbreak – will fund various projects, including upgrades to the South Eastern Fwy and repairing sections of the Stuart Hwy, Dukes Hwy and Riddoch Hwy.
RAA’s Senior Manager of Safety and Infrastructure Charles Mountain said the commitment from the state government would improve roads and boost jobs during this time.
“RAA has lobbied for more road maintenance, and this response from the state government is excellent,” Mr Mountain said.
“It will help fix some of the issues on South Australian roads, making them safer and saving lives.”
“The upgrades will also make travel around South Australia more efficient for commercial, local traffic, and tourists when we’re on the other side of this virus.”
While the recent funding injection is a great start, there’s still plenty more to be done to ensure our ageing road system can handle increased traffic and freight.
As we’ve always done, RAA will keep advocating for better roads for our members and all South Australian road users.
And you can help too. If there’s a road you think needs fixing, let us know so we can keep campaigning for improvements.