After surviving a crash, I wish I'd done more to make the Princes Highway safer

COMMENT

In December 2012 my wife and I survived a violent and terrifying head-on collision on the Princes Highway a couple of kilometres north of the site of the fatal crash that received so much coverage over the Christmas break.

We sustained relatively minor injuries. The woman who crossed into our line of traffic and collided with us was not as fortunate. She was severely injured, cut from the wreckage of her car and airlifted to Sydney.

Blame is of limited value when attempting to prevent these events occurring. In truth these are very ordinary events that have far-reaching consequences for society as a whole and none of us are immune to death, serious injury or its consequences on our roads.

Lars Falkholt, his wife Vivian, and their daughter Annabelle died as a result of the Princes Highway crash, while Jessica Falkholt (right) remains critical. Picture: Facebook.

Lars Falkholt, his wife Vivian, and their daughter Annabelle died as a result of the Princes Highway crash, while Jessica Falkholt (right) remains critical. Picture: Facebook.

I was overcome with guilt that I had not done more to lobby to have the road improved when I read about the fate of the Falkholt family, north of Bendalong, on the Princes Highway.

We engineer products on the basis that if something can go wrong it will and build in safeguards to ensure they don't. We are still not doing enough to build roads this way. This road has been "improved" yet it remains one lane each way and it is possible to cross the midline unimpeded despite there being an unbroken centre line almost its entire considerable length.

It was evident in a Background Briefing program on Radio National, broadcast in early 2013 soon after our accident, that there had been and continues to be a failure on the part of those we entrust to keep us from unnecessary harm and fix the chronic problem with the Princes Highway.

There is a failure on the part of state and federal authorities to fully accept their responsibility and instead we have a list of apparently unobtainable goals and schedules.

So what are we going to do? Count the deadly toll in isolation to its real economic and personal cost to us all? Worse still, forget it until next year?

Robert Standen's car after it crashed on the south coast in 2012. Picture: Supplied

Robert Standen's car after it crashed on the south coast in 2012. Picture: Supplied

Let's get realistic. The highway south won't be duplicated for a very long while. Technology won't save us soon if it ever does. How about some more obtainable measures to keep traffic apart where single-lane highway traffic exists?

Surely physical barriers in these areas to help prevent vehicles crossing unbroken lines would significantly reduce impact speeds and number of vehicles involved.

There are many reasons why people cross the midline of the road. Judging these people changes nothing important.

Robert Standen is a Sydney physiotherapist.