Safety barriers save lives

Safety barriers save lives

In 2019 safety barriers were hit more than 3,200 times. Each time a safety barrier is hit, people are saved from potential life changing injuries or death.

As part of the Towards Zero plan, safety barriers are being installed on Victoria’s most high risk regional roads because they reduce the chances of head-on and run off road crashes by up to 85%. These roads are deemed high risk because of the combination of higher travel speeds, road conditions and longer journeys.

To reach our goal of zero deaths and serious injuries, you’ll be seeing safety barriers being installed across Victoria. It’s simple. The more safety barriers, the more lives that can be saved.

Q: Why install safety barriers on the sides and middle of the road?

A: Sadly 109 people died last year as a result of run off road or head on crashes. Barriers prevent vehicles from travelling out of their lane and hitting trees or oncoming traffic.

Q: How many times have these types of barrier been hit?

A: In 2017,  there were 1720 recorded hits to safety barrier in Victoria. That’s potentially more than 1720 people saved from injury or death.

From January to April 2018, VicRoads recorded 840 hits on flexible safety barriers across the state.

Q: How long does it take to repair a stretch of barrier?

A: The time it takes to repair barrier depends on the level of barrier damage and number of posts hit. This crash knocked over 17 posts. It took the repair took less than 2 hours.

Barrier repairs are prioritised by VicRoads based on the amount of damage to the barrier and location of the barrier.

The severity of the hit and damage to the barrier determines how long the barrier will take to fix. In some cases a few barrier posts may need to be replaced and the wire will need to be re-tensioned, in other cases an entire stretch of barrier will need to be re-installed.

Anyone who sees a damaged barrier should report it to VicRoads.

Q: Are the barriers compromised even though they’ve been repaired?

A: No – that’s the great thing about these barriers. The posts are replaced and the wire is re-attached to the new posts. The barrier tension is also then adjusted to ensure it can prevent cars from running off the road into trees or oncoming vehicles.


Q: Why did you choose a Ford Territory?

A: Three reasons:

- There are some misconceptions that SUVs and 4WDs, like a Territory, flip when they hit safety barriers. However there is no evidence of this in any common crash scenario. As you can see by the images and vision, the damage caused to the Territory is relatively minimal for a crash that occurred at highway speeds.

- We want to demonstrate that safety barriers work to stop/slow heavy vehicles. The Territory weighed 2240 kg

- SUVs currently make up around 43% of new vehicle sales, therefore the Ford Territory used in the demonstration is representative of Victorian drivers, and families who travel these roads every day.

Q: What speed did you crash the car at?

A: The Territory was travelling at 95km/h before it began to drift and the final impact speed was 90km/h, replicating a common fatigue crash.

Q: Why did you choose the speed?

A: The posted speed on the Midland Highway at the crash location is 100km/h. In a fatigue crash, drivers usually lose speed as they leave their lane, so we chose 90km/h as a representative impact speed.

Q: Why did you choose the Midland Highway?

A: This is a newly upgraded stretch of road forming a key part of the Towards Zero plan which is the first stage of ensuring no one dies or is seriously injured on Victorian roads.

Also, the road has two lanes in both directions, giving us plenty of room to ensure the safety of all drivers involved in the production.

The road is also typical of many high speed regional roads in Victoria with trees, open paddocks, power poles and other roadside hazards along its length.

The road also features other Towards Zero safety infrastructure including flexible guard fence (another type of safety barrier), a slightly wider median and sealed shoulders.

Q: Why did you decide to crash into centre line barrier?

A: The Victorian community are used to seeing road side barriers, however many people are not as familiar with centre line barrier. More centre line barrier will be installed on Victoria’s regional roads in the coming years so we felt it was important to show the community about how these barriers work to save lives.

In 2017, 37 people died in head-on crashes from crossing the centre of a regional Victorian road, and centre line barrier stops these types of crashes from happening.

Q: What angle did you crash the car into barrier and why?

A: On straight sections of road, fatigue crashes typically happen at departure angles between 5 and 10 degrees (as has been found in the MUARC Enhanced Crash Investigation Study, ECIS) – we landed in the middle of that and set the driver up to leave the road into the barrier at a 7 degree angle.

Q: Were any additional safety features added to the Territory?

A: Yes, we installed a roll cage and relocated the battery to ensure the safety of the driver in the event that something unexpected happened. However, the vehicle stability control and air bag systems were left as standard for the impact.

The car was also fitted with three cameras and an accelerometer to help capture data of the forces involved in the crash.

Q: What expert advice did you seek when planning the crash?

A: A technical working group was established by the TAC including senior road safety experts from TAC, barrier experts from VicRoads and the Swedish Transport Agency, Ingal the barrier manufacturer, crash investigation expert Dr David Logan, Vicroads regional engineers who built the road and stunt coordinators.

Q: What weight was the vehicle when it crashed?

A: The vehicle weighed around 2240 kg prior to having cameras fitted to its roof and internally.

Q: What is the capacity of the barrier?

A: Safety barriers are strong enough to help stop trucks, buses, SUVs and 4-wheel drives. Barrier testing found flexible barriers can withstand being hit by passenger vehicles weighing up to 2000kg at 100km/h and larger vehicles weighing up to 8000kg at 80km/h.

Q: What type of barrier was crashed into?

A: Centre line flexible wire rope safety barrier – designed by Ingal Manufacturing.

Q: What length of barrier was hit?

A: 17 posts were hit, spaced 2 metres apart = 34 metres

Q: What was the tension on the barrier?

Before the crash the barrier was tensioned at 24 kN (kilonewtons, equating to 2.5 tonnes force). This is the average tension of WRSB. Wire tensions change throughout the day depending on weather conditions and can fluctuate between 10 and 34 kN, which doesn’t significantly affect barrier performance, but does influence how much horizontal deflection occurs during a typical impact.

Barrier tension was not measured after the crash, but would likely have been much lower.  WRSB is designed to be fixed once it has been impacted. The section of barrier used in the impact was repaired by a Vicroads road crew in less than two hours.

Q: Who were the drivers?

A: Professional precision stunt drivers.


Q: Why have you created this campaign?

A: According to recent market research, there are some common misconceptions in the Victorian community about flexible safety barriers and why the infrastructure has been so heavily invested in under the Towards Zero Strategy and Action Plan.

The Safety Barriers Save Lives barrier crash footage and subsequent public education campaign aims to highlight to the Victorian community how these barriers work and help us continue to educate people that zero is possible, which is what Towards Zero is all about.

The campaign will also help inform research within Victoria and across Australia. Road safety experts viewed the crash in real time and were provided with data that will help inform further research by the Monash University Accident Research Centre.

The lane departure crashes that these safety barriers prevent are the number one cause of death on regional Victorian roads. In 2017, 109 people died in regional Victoria because their car veered left or right out of their lane.

Q: What does the footage show?

A: The footage demonstrates a common fatigue crash scenario on a high-speed rural road.

The vehicle collides with the centreline barrier at a seven degree angle, typical of a common fatigue-related lane departure. The vehicle’s speed was just over 90km/h.

The impact captures the way in which the barrier reduces the car’s speed and prevents the car from travelling into an oncoming lane.

Technical specialists were engaged to inform the characteristics of a crash in which a car departs its lane – into oncoming traffic. We know that this is the most common cause of deaths on rural roads.

Q: Are the man and girl featured real people or actors?

A: Peter and Tayla are both real life examples of how these safety barriers can be the difference between tragedy and a bit of a fright. They both experienced, first-hand, what it’s like to lose control of a vehicle and collide with a flexible safety barrier.

Q: What is Tayla’s story?

A: Torquay woman Tayla Stevens, 21, is living proof that flexible safety barriers save lives.

In early 2016, at 19 years old, Tayla crashed into wire barriers along the centre of the Western Highway, Sunshine, preventing Tayla from veering on to the other side of the highway and into oncoming traffic.

At the time, Tayla was driving her 2008 Holden Barina from Melbourne to Ballarat when an unknown object hit her windscreen.

In Tayla's words: "(The windscreen hit) made me jump and I lost control of the car. The wire barriers took the impact of the car and actually slowed it down, rather than bouncing it back into the traffic that was coming behind.”

Q: What is Peter’s story?

A: Peter and his wife Dee were returning from Mildura heading back towards Melbourne when a front tyre exploded on their vehicle. Within seconds their vehicle veered out of control into a safety barrier.

“The initial impact was like being pulled up by a rubber band. It wasn’t harsh, it just brought us to a stop very quickly.

“To anybody that is sceptical, it’s only after our experience now that I believe safety barriers are a good thing.”

Q: Why did you decide to crash a car into barrier on a real road?

A: Safety barriers are being installed on Victoria’s most high risk regional roads as part of the Towards Zero plan to ensure no one is killed or seriously injured on our roads.

Victorians drive past these barriers every day and have driven through road work zones where they are being installed.

We had a number of animations and images depicting how safety barriers work to save lives, but feedback we received through our community engagement activities was that these weren’t relatable.

To help the community understand how safety barriers save lives, we replicated a fatigue crash on a common high speed rural road in a family car that people drive or drive past every day.

Q: What type of crash were you simulating?

A: This demonstration replicates a common fatigue crash. The driver starts in the outside lane travelling at 95km/h as they fall into a micro sleep they slowly veer toward the barrier at a 7 degree angle and their speed reduces to 90km/h. When a person is in a micro sleep, it takes them two seconds for them to wake up and react. In this demonstration the driver was instructed to hit the barrier, loosely hold the wheel and apply the brakes after two seconds.

Q: What would the likely outcome be without the barrier?

A: In the demonstration, if the barrier was not there the Territory would have collided with the white oncoming vehicle/s.

Behind the scenes of the latest safety barriers campaign

Sam Cockfield: Lead Director Road Safety - Transport Accident Commission

DR. David Logan: Crash Investigation Expert - Monash University Accident Research Centre
YouTube Version Show video transcript

WOMAN: I was just travelling from
Melbourne to Ballarat by myself.

I was quite fatigued.

And something just hit my windscreen
and startled me

and I moved the steering wheel and
ended up losing control of the car.

It hit the safety barriers on a acute
angle at quite a high speed.

If they weren't there, I would've
gone into oncoming traffic

and killed myself
and probably someone else.

I believe that everyone has
their own opinions, and they can,

but in my experience,
they saved my life

and I think they're a great addition
to our country roads.

Safety Barriers Save Lives

Towards Zero

Tayla's story - Safety barrier crash experience

Peter's story - Safety barrier crash experience