The danger of poor quality road surfaces

Every rider knows the feeling – riding along the road when you feel your front tyre start to wobble along bitumen that’s been damaged or left unfixed. Potholes, debris, gravel, poor maintenance and soft bitumen can cause bikes to slip and riders to get injured. So what are the rules around poor road surfaces, and what can you do if you come across one?

Who’s responsible for road repairs?

Tamara Wright, Lawyer at Maurice Blackburn’s Dandenong office, says that it can be complex to establish that a local council’s or a road authority’s negligence has resulted in an accident.

“When people are injured on the road in Victoria, road authorities are not found to be negligent simply because of the existence of a road surfacing problem such as a pot hole or a degrading surface,” she says.  

In fact, unless it can be proven that the local council or road authority knew about the issue before the accident, it can be very hard for someone who is injured to claim compensation from their negligence. But if the authority is aware of the problem and takes no action, then this can help build a stronger case for the injured rider. 

Similar rules apply in other states across Australia, including Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

Stephen’s story

Poor quality roads have meant devastating consequences for Stephen.

Stephen was travelling slowly around a bend on his motorbike when he crossed an area of soft bitumen that caused his front wheel to slip. His bike fell and he was pinned underneath. He broke multiple bones and underwent surgery to have metalware inserted to his thumb and collarbone to support the bones.

After his accident, the local road authority fixed the soft bitumen. “I often wonder how many people drove over that soft bitumen without reporting it. If more people knew how important it is to tell authorities about these sorts of issues then maybe I would not have been injured,” says Stephen.

“I’m frustrated that such a bad repair with soft bitumen was originally done on this road, causing me to be injured. I hear of poor repairs on our roads quite a bit from fellow motorbike riders. My wife, who is also a rider, often comes across pot holes in roads. It seems that no one reports the problem and then when someone is injured the local authority can say that they were never told. More people need to speak up.”

Speaking up keeps your fellow riders safe

When it comes to safety on the roads, looking out for each other is important – especially as a rider. This includes being proactive about reporting road surfaces, even if you haven’t had an accident.

“Road users often don’t know what they can do about their concerns and might not realise why it is so important. New smartphone apps such as Snap Send Solve let users quickly report issues to the correct local authority of concerns such as potholes or damaged roads,” says Ms Wright.

If you see a poor road surface, the best thing to do is to take photographs or video and then report the issue to the local council or road authority.  Clear photographs of the road surface issue can make the difference between someone injured on the road being able to recover compensation, or losing their case.

You can find your local road authority in your state by clicking here: https://www.australia.gov.au/information-and-services/transport-and-regional/roads-and-road-transport/authorities

RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Road accident injuries

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Tamara Wright

Maurice Blackburn Dandenong
Tamara Wright is a work injuries and road accident lawyer in Maurice Blackburn’s Dandenong office and our visiting office in Pakenham. She helps people in the Greater Dandenong area with WorkCover and TAC compensation claims. Tamara is driven and energised by the opportunity to ...

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