Road authorities and their contractors are leaving large areas of loose gravel on road surfaces for too long after they repair roads. The debris, which can stretch out for the entire width of a road and be metres long, is often left for several days before a contractor returns to sweep it away.
While this may not be a hazard for other road users, such as cars, trucks and buses, it’s incredibly dangerous for motorcyclists and has caused serious injuries to riders. Riding over such debris has been described as being equivalent to riding over a tub full of marbles—that is, impossible.
Unsafe practices lead to serious injuries
A client of ours, Simon, was riding his bike on a country road that had been resurfaced. The workers had left a large area of loose crushed rock—about 70 square metres—on the road, which caused Simon to come off his motorbike. After rolling 15 metres from his motorbike, he suffered significant injuries, including major concussion and a badly injured arm, clavicle and shoulder, resulting in memory difficulties and months off work.
The state of the road was to blame for Simon's injuries.“The police officer said the accident was 100 per cent caused by the road being in disrepair and an independent witness said the same thing,” Simon explains.
If a road is left in a state that is undoubtedly and inherently dangerous for motorcyclists, then there’s a liability for the damage that comes from this.
“There is no roadworks practice that allows you to place loose gravel on the road without an alternative route or appropriate traffic control,” says Simon, who has professional insight from his work as a civil engineer.“I am motivated to bring about change to this sort of practice. I don’t want contractors to do this again.”
It’s time to establish safer practices
If leaving loose gravel on road surfaces is necessary for the road repairing process, the roadway needs to be very carefully managed. This could include temporary traffic lights, manning of the hazard or, at an absolute minimum, there needs to be careful and appropriate signage so that motorcyclists know they’re approaching a hazard.
Roadworks contractors also have an obligation to provide a safe alternative route for all road users. It would appear, however, that there are other options to leaving roads in an unsafe state.
We’re advocating for those involved to stop this practice. Whether it’s a deliberate policy or road contractors taking shortcuts, we need to get to the bottom of why it’s happening and how we can stop it from happening. There are better ways that don’t include leaving roads in an unsafe state for motorcyclists.
Malcolm Cumming is a principal and the office leader in Maurice Blackburn’s Ringwood office.