Road Safety Audits

By:  09-Dec-2011
Keywords: Public Transport, Road Safety, Urban Design

Road safety audit policy is becoming entrenched in more and more road authorities and is recognised as a standard tool in enhancing the design process and ensuring safe road designs. As a result of this demand, road safety and accessibility/DDA audits continue to be the core business and expertise centre of RSA. Other services (special events, general advice, risk analysis and so on) are often sought from RSA engineers when a road safety audit is not required or relevant. With the introduction by the Federal Government of the Disability Discrimination Act –1992 (DDA), design standards must cater for people with disabilities. RSA’s growing area of expertise is the pedestrian, DDA and accessibility auditing. The principal DDA/Accessibility auditor oversees the auditing of pedestrian related designs for buildings, open space & public transport etc, investigations of pedestrian accidents and countermeasure development, and pedestrian controls for major events. The principal DDA/Accessibility auditor provides the specialised auditing services that architects, councils, landscape designers, building, construction and public transport companies need to ensure a fully inclusive society and importantly compliance with the DDA. RSA has established itself as a leader in accessibility and safety audits. Our experience in undertaking accessibility audits has prepared company personnel to look at all issues that can affect accessibility and safety for all users. The company enjoys a reputation of being credible and realistic in its assessment and approach to dealing with accessibility and safety issues in areas that include existing infrastructure redevelopments, new developments, urban design and public transport.

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was passed by the Federal Parliament, in November 1992, and in 2002 the Federal Parliament passed the first DDA Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport. The leading object of the Act is: "to eliminate, as far as possible, discrimination against persons on the ground of disability" - and to do this in areas of life from employment and education to access to premises and goods & services. The DDA is a general law that removes discrimination in a wide range of activities. Its philosophy is that all people have rights to access the economic, social, cultural and political life of the community. Some of the visible changes resulting from the Disability Discrimination Act include:
  • Installation of Tactile Ground Surface Indictors (TGSIs) to inform people with vision impairments about direction of paths and road crossings and to warn them of hazards;
  • Installation of ramps and hand-rails to assist people with mobility impairments; and
  • Construction of new platform tram stops so that tram services can be accessed by people with mobility impairments.
Access and mobility are issues that cannot be neglected. It is not just an aspect of good building design, it extends to the external environment, public areas outside buildings, parks, BBQ areas and street furniture, which are not currently covered by the Building Code Australia. But the best results are achieved by good design.
Crash BarriersCrash Barriers are specially constructed devices selected and installed to:
  • Prevent errant vehicles from striking fixed objects
  • Redirect errant vehicles safely into the flow of traffic
  • Prevent cross median accidents
  • Prevent errant vehicles proceeding down a non-driveable batter
  • Prevent errant vehicles striking pedestrians
When designing and selecting crash barriers RSA investigates the following:
  • Level of protection required
  • Installation criteria
  • Flexibility
  • Barrier terminal treatment
  • Transitions from one type of barrier to another
  • Length of barriers

Level of Protection Required The level of barrier protection is dependant upon the risk and consequences of impact. The risk of impact can be calculated. The consequence of impact should be considered in determining the balance of risk of impact against the risks associated with nil or inappropriate barrier installations. Installation Criteria Specific installation criteria are set to maximize the safety effect of crash barriers. For example; a "W" beam guard fence must not have excessive slopes in front of it; particular offsets between kerb and channel and barriers are applicable; water filled barriers have the first unit empty. Terminal Treatment The selection of a suitable barrier terminal is important so that the barrier does not pose a greater hazard than what it is designed to be protecting. The selection of a suitable terminal depends on site conditions. Terminals can be gating, partial gating, and non gating. Each type of terminal has its limitations. Site and traffic conditions need to be considered in selection of suitable traffic terminal treatment.

Plastic barrier overlap treatment with concrete barriers.
Transition from One Type of Barrier to Another Some transitions from one type of barrier to another are provided as standard drawings by the relevant road authority or manufacturers. However, not all transitions are quite so standard and require an understanding of first principles of the way the barriers perform.

Poor transition.
Length of Barrier Length of a barrier can determine whether an errant vehicle is successfully intercepted. This needs to be considered along with the barrier impact on traffic safety.

Guard rail too short to shield tree.
Typical issues:
  • Length of barriers is too short
  • Barrier not actually shielding hazard
  • Unsafe end terminals
  • Water barriers not filled or partially filled
  • Insufficient offset between barrier and hazard

Traffic Management PlansNormally for large road construction projects RSA is purely involved in auditing, which is the core business. However, for a variety of reasons, a client may require RSA to produce a Traffic Management Plan directly. This is often done in situations where RSA has high levels of experience in balancing safety with construction, for example, in very space restricted environments such as the CBD where there is little working space between a building and the travelling public including pedestrians.

Sometimes it is clear from the outset that a road safety audit will not yield a favourable safety assessment, due to conditions clearly not meeting relevant standards. In these instances, it can be beneficial to have RSA undertake a risk analysis. When a design does not meet safety standards, a risk analysis acknowledges road safety risks but weighs up site specific factors such as a detailed crash history, 85th percentile speeds, road geometry, existing road conditions, and historically ‘acceptable risks’ eg. signal pedestals within the clear zone. As a result, consideration can be given to the issue with much more emphasis on the relative risk, rather than what can at times be a black/white approach of auditing.
RSA conducts cost-benefit analysis for clients for the treatment of known accident locations. Appropriate crash countermeasures will be developed and costed to determine the expected accident reduction potential and the benefits that can be derived from the capital expenditure for the treatment works. In order to assist road authorities in obtaining adequate funding for proposed roadworks RSA will undertake the following:
  • Comparative accident analysis to determine the extent and type of accidents, and to develop suitable crash counter measures
  • Cost treatment options review
  • Conduct a cost benefits analysis
  • Make submissions to government funding departments
  • Submit investigation reports and cost benefits analysis to the next level of government to attract funding.

Clients often drop in or call informally for advice on technical matters which RSA offers as part of its ongoing service. Alternatively, RSA is formally engaged to form solutions to problems that can be sometimes simple technical issues, and other times, complex and political planning issues.
In the event of legal action RSA will undertake a review of the site and prepare an investigation report on the following areas:
  • Traffic engineering accidents as a result of signage, delineation, sight distance, traffic management Schemes etc
  • Road Safety engineering accidents due to rigid objects, batter slopes, pavement surfaces etc
  • Road design accidents due to poor or sub-standard road design
  • Pavement surfaces accidents due to flushing, stripping, cracking, bleeding etc
  • Crash barriers accidents due to inappropriate barrier types and /or sub-standard installation
  • Road works sites accidents within road works sites due to poor or sub-standard practices
RSA’s legal clients include many of the major national and international legal firms practicing in Australia. RSA’s staff are also called on to act as expert witnesses in legal matters.
RSA is also involved with the auditing of traffic management at major events. This can involve the auditing of preliminary plans at the concept stage as was done with the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, or the auditing of detailed plans and the works on the day as with events such as Formula 1 Grand Prix or City fun runs.

In Victoria the Road Management Act (2004) was introduced to allocate a level of accountability to road authorities. It attempts to ensure that procedures and practices are put in place to maintain roads and pedestrian paths. Particularly for Councils and in light of the new Road Management Act, RSA has developed policy and procedure guidelines to help establish a framework from which to put the legal requirements into practical actions. It is often difficult to match the requirements of the Road Management Act for application on minor streets under the responsibility of local government. RSA can work with Council personnel to develop suitable work practices during construction and maintenance activities that best matches the intent of the Road Management Act.

Keywords: Auditing Services, Existing Infrastructure, General Law, Pedestrian Controls, Public Transport, Public Transport Companies, Risk Analysis, Road Safety, Road Safety Audit, Safety Audit, Safety Issues, Specialised Auditing Services, Transport Companies, Urban Design, Vision Impairments,



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