Wide centre lines on the Bruce Highway. Photo Contributed
Wide centre lines on the Bruce Highway. Photo Contributed Contributed

It costs up to $4m per km but 1m gap could save lives

THIN white lines are as iconic a part of roads as bitumen and cars.

But an award-winning Queensland program could lead to centre lines removed and hundreds of lives saved in the process.

Centre lines dividing traffic travelling in opposite directions will be replaced with widened centre strips on the state's highways. The strips are up to one metre wide to move head-on traffic slightly further apart.

RACQ figures show the changes have slashed fatality rates - but upgrading a kilometre of road can cost up to $4 million.

Queensland road safety minister Mark Bailey said the government planned on installing wide centre lines on all highways.

Mr Bailey said the simplicity of the idea had stunned him when he first heard it.

"I just thought 'Wow, why didn't we think of this 30 years ago'," he said.

The program was initially rolled out under the former LNP-government.

Wide centre lines have been added to 901km of Queensland highways - the vast majority on the Bruce Hwy.

RACQ spokeswoman Lauren Ritchie said where the wide centre line had been installed fatal crashes had declined about 25%.

"It is a low-cost treatment that is showing a good reduction in crashes where applied," she said.

Installing the upgrade on a road already wide enough cost the Department of Transport and Main roads between $30,000 and $50,000 per kilometre.

That jumps to between $2 million and $4 million if the road pavement has to be widened.

But 2015 DTMR statistics show the average cost to the Queensland community of just one road death is $8,987,369.

The average cost of a crash where people are hospitalised is $646,974, and where medical treatment is $124,154.

Although the State Government controls 33,343km of roads, Mr Bailey said the upgrade would be likely only made on highways.

"We're progressively rolling this out. As we do maintenance for instance we retrofit. In some areas, of course, it is best to do that where you've got width on the verges. In other areas we'll have to do that when we're able to widen the road as part of an upgrade," he said.

"You'll see some considerable gains on that in the next year or two."

Mr Bailey said widening the gap between oncoming lanes added an extra "margin of error".

"You separate that different facing traffic by a metre so you just introduce a greater margin for error. So that if people make a mistake, or they get distracted they have a bit more buffer zone to oncoming cars," he said.

Although standard road rules apply, the extra room gives motorists more space to avoid danger.

The metre gap means if an oncoming vehicle is overtaking dangerously it is less likely to be fully in the wrong lane. The difference might not stop a crash but it could prevent a deadly head-on.

ARM NEWSDESK



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