By Jeremy Rochow
Last updated on: April 3, 2019 at 10:35 am
The Norton family has been in the heavy vehicle and freight industry for at least two generations, making them well aware of the poor condition of the Dukes and Riddoch highways.
Based in the state’s South East, Norton Harvesters owner Chris Norton regularly drives a freight truck from Naracoorte to Keith. Speaking to samotor, he said he tried to avoid both the Riddoch and Dukes highways as much as possible due to excessive traffic and poor road conditions.
“People don’t give way or slow down (for oversize trucks) when they see the escort vehicles coming,” Chris said.
“We have to basically stop because going to the edge of the road and hitting a pothole means we might lose control.
“I want to see both highways upgraded, as well as Dukes Hwy turned into a dual carriageway and made wider and safer so there’s more room to pull over to the side of the road.”
Chris’ parents, Kerry and Jennifer, drive escort vehicles in front and behind their son’s oversize truck. Kerry, who’s been in the heavy vehicle industry for more than 40 years, said he’s concerned about the safety of the Riddoch and Dukes highways.
“There are no overtaking lanes between here and Naracoorte along the Riddoch Hwy, and because of the amount of traffic on the road, it’s risky for people wanting to pass slower vehicles,” Kerry said.
“We’d like to see overtaking lanes (on the Riddoch Hwy) and a good length so there’s plenty of opportunity to pass without excess speed.”
Safety is one of the reasons RAA has included the improvement of Riddoch Hwy and Dukes Hwy on their list of priorities leading up to the 2019 federal election.
The Riddoch Hwy, which has become one of the state’s most significant freight and commuter corridors, saw almost 200 car crash-related injuries and 8 deaths between 2013 and 2017.
RAA Road Safety Manager Charles Mountain said the number of crashes along the Riddoch Hwy highlighted the amount of traffic that uses the corridor.
“It also means, due to the road itself, people are unfortunately making mistakes when they’re either trying to overtake or entering the road corridor from the numerous intersections along this particular route,” Mr Mountain said.
“For these reasons, investment is needed to bring it up to a necessary level of safety and ensure it continues to be fit for purpose and meet its future demands.”
RAA wants to see the federal government formally recognise the Riddoch Hwy in the National Highway Network and invest in critical upgrades. These include overtaking lanes between Keith and Naracoorte to improve the road’s safety and efficiency.
While there are a number of overtaking lanes along the Dukes Hwy, Jennifer Norton has concerns about the manner in which motorists use them.
“What I don’t like is when you get to an overtaking lane on the Dukes, there are slower drivers that speed up and there’s not enough time to pass,” Jennifer said.
Due to the 1100 commercial vehicles, and many more passenger vehicles, that travel along Dukes Hwy each day, this is a common complaint.
RAA wants to see the federal government commit to the staged duplication of Dukes Hwy between Tailem Bend and the South Australian border with Victoria. The aim is to reduce road fatalities and improve efficiency.
The number of vehicles that travel along the Dukes Hwy each day
Mr Mountain said the Dukes Hwy had a terrible crash history, with 96 people injured and 12 killed while travelling along the road between 2013 and 2017.
“We know there have been some improvements made to the corridor in recent years, with the introduction of the wide centre lane, but we’re still seeing an enormous number of crashes on a regular basis on this road,” Mr Mountain said.
“The way to stop this is full duplication, so that’s why we’re pushing for this leading up to the federal election.”
The duplication of the Dukes Hwy will also help prepare the road for future autonomous vehicle trials.