‘Fallen down roadworks signs putting lives at risk’

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Outback road signs safety warning
Dash cam footage showed the nearside 60km/h was down at the time of a double fatality in the Pilbara in 2017. A second sign on the opposite road was visible. PIC: ABC

Calls have been made for urgent overhaul of safety around roadworks on Outback roads with trucking groups say the highways are littered with disused and seemingly forgotten roadworks signs.

The issue has been brought into the spotlight following the jailing of a well-known Pilbara pastoralist for almost four years. Kimberly De Pledge was recently found guilty on two charges of dangerous driving causing the death of a caravanning couple on the Great Northern Highway south of Port Hedland two years ago. De Pledge’s fully-laden cattle truck hit the back of the caravan at Coonarie Creek bridge on a section of roadworks that had altered the road surface.

The ABC reports that the roadworks came after a bend in the road where both the 80km/h and 60km/h roadworks speed limit signs were laying flat on the side of the road, although there were similar signs on the opposite side of the road.

The court heard De Pledge did not see the roadworks signs but hit the brakes as soon as he noticed the brake lights on the caravan in front of him. His vehicle, weighing 117 tonnes, could not stop in time.

An expert in traffic management said change was needed.

“If motorists can’t see the signs properly, then these are definitely not helping the motorist comply with the speed limit,” transportation engineering expert, Ashim Debnath, told the ABC. “Due to the vast road network in Australia, it is not a very easy job for road authorities and contractors to ensure that everything is in place … however, it is a very important job.”

She said that no matter how hard it was, all signs and traffic control devices in roadwork zones had to be in correct order.

Heather Jones, the CEO of trucking group, the Heavy Haulage Girls, said she had noticed a lot of signs down at roadworks over the past two years since the accident.

“If the wind comes through to blow them down sometimes it takes days for them to be put up again,” she told the ABC. “More people will die because these road signs are not standing up where we can see them.”

Under Australian Standards, signs should be positioned so “they are properly displayed and securely mounted”.

If signs are continuously required for works longer than two weeks, they “should be erected in a permanent manner”, according to the Main Roads standards on their website.

  • Have you ever noticed road signs laying down on Outback highways? Comment below.
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3 Responses to ‘Fallen down roadworks signs putting lives at risk’

  1. Yes, I have seen them laying on the ground when travelling and it does cause some confusion never knowing whether they have been blown over or knocked over or even a mix of covered and uncovered signs which creates even further confusion

  2. Very sad to read this. We were travelling with our ‘van recently from Bourke to Nyngan in outback NSW and came upon road works. We didn’t see any signage but using common sense, slowed down anyway, wondering what the limit might be. Suddenly I noticed a speed sign laying in the grass on the side of the road so was able to advise my husband of the limit. A little further on another sign was laying down reducing the speed limit even further. We then questioned ourselves had the limit actually been lifted because the signs were laying down? Being the only ones in that area at time we continued slowly. There were high winds and a dust storm occurring at the time so they may have blown down. I would think this reinforces the comment in the article. The signs have to made more permanent, even if for a short period of time, they could be weighted with sandbags.

  3. I totally agree with the above observations from Evelyn.
    Signs left behind can create a “cry wolf” situation. The perpetrators should be fined.

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