19 February 2024

It's official: Friday afternoon is the most dangerous time on Canberra's roads (and other crash stats)

| James Coleman
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Monaro Highway

Looks almost peaceful from the air. Not so on the ground. Photo: ACT Government.

The Monaro Highway near Hume has again been named the most dangerous road in Canberra, according to insurance claim data from AAMI.

The stretch of treacherous dual-carriageway tarmac was beaten to the infamous number-one position on 2022’s ‘Crash Index’ by Canberra Avenue in Fyshwick but has returned to take the dubious honour in 2023.

Canberra Avenue is close behind in second place, followed by Gundaroo Drive in Gungahlin and Drakeford Drive in Kambah, while fifth place was a tie between the Monaro Highway again, albeit closer to Fyshwick, and Newcastle Street, also in Fyshwick.

“It seems Fyshwick is still a hotspot no matter the road,” the index reads.

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The insurance company doesn’t include data on the exact number of claims but said it analysed more than 340,000 accident claims across the country to “expose common crash statistics and the most dangerous roads in each capital city and territory”.

Nose-to-tail prangs were the most common type of collision in the ACT, making up one in four claims.

This was also common to all other states and territories, except for Hobart and the Northern Territory, “where accidental damage while parked and collisions with an animal were the leading type of crash”.

police conducting roadside operations

ACT Policing in action on the Monaro Highway. Photo: ACT Policing.

In the ACT and nationally, Fridays were the worst day of the week for accidents (16 per cent), while afternoons proved the most common time. Almost one-third of accidents occurred between 1 pm and 4:30 pm.

Male drivers (54 per cent) were more likely than females (46 per cent) to be involved in accidents, and the worst offenders were drivers aged 35-49 (24 per cent).

Kim Bessel is a driver trainer with Fifth Gear Motoring in Canberra and says the data comes as no surprise.

“They’re all arterial roads, they’re all as busy as heck in the mornings and afternoons, and so it’s highly likely you’re going to have nose-to-tail accidents because people are rushing to work or home, not leaving enough space and racing through intersections.”

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The worst in his experience is Canberra Avenue between Fyshwick and Queanbeyan, mainly for the sheer amount of traffic it has to hold.

“It’s 80 km/h, and then there are traffic lights that force everyone to come to a stop, as opposed to the Tuggeranong Parkway, for instance, where – although they’re travelling fast – everybody is flowing.”

For the same reason, he’s pleased to see the ACT Government finally ridding the Monaro Highway of its traffic lights and replacing the intersections at Lanyon Drive, Mugga Way, Tralee Street and Shepherd Street with high-speed flyovers.

“High speed is about getting volume moving, but when you bring it to a standstill all the time, that doesn’t really work.”

Accidents come down to distraction, according to driver trainer Kim Bessel. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Kim also confirms traffic on a Friday afternoon to be “mad, especially on a long weekend”, to the point he’s told his fellow trainers to avoid running Learner-driver courses at that time.

“It comes down to distraction,” he says.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is on their phones. Distraction can be as simple as, ‘Thank God, the week’s over – I can relax’. Or, ‘I can’t wait to get to my mate’s place and finally have a cold beer’. But actually, you’re still driving.”

But it’s not all bad news.

“I see a lot of good behaviour on these roads as well – people trying to leave a gap, trying to maintain the speed limit, using their indicators. The salient message for each and every one of us is, ‘be aware of the vehicle that’s randomly going to do the wrong thing’ … because you are still in charge of your own one-tonne weapon.”

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Monaro highway. Five deeper into the stats. NSW vehicles, tradie SUVs and tailgating. Simple. Put a cop or two along there and pull up tailgaters.

So it’s official that male drivers have the most accidents. Will this mean less complaints and attacks on female drivers? Logically it would if the comments were objective.

Usually a pedestrian, I can say that I’ve found women drivers to be more aware of pedestrians and more considerate of their needs when crossing a road. Whilst this is just a personal anecdote rather than a scientific study, it is backed by decades of empirical observation. Of course, many male drivers are equally aware and considerate.

I have learned to be much more aware of the likelihood of certain types of drivers to appear from nowhere at speed without any warning and no attempt to stop as I’m walking across a road, even on pedestrian crossings. These same drivers often abuse me for being there before they appeared on the scene, as if I was supposed to know they’d speed around the corner without looking. Fortunately, these morons are in the minority, but you only need to be hit once to be badly injured or dead. Being in the right is of little benefit.

I’d photograph number plates and report such actions if I thought there would be appropriate consequences.

If only our government would provide safe places to cross all major roads for pedestrians, rather than focussing on bicycles, with pedestrians being an afterthought with little thought going into protecting them from harm. Almost all of us are pedestrians some of the time, whilst much fewer are cyclists. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable as usually they’re less agile and slower than cyclists, but the latter take priority in this strange city that puts special interest groups first.

Can you please name one place where a place to cross a major road has been provided for the benefit of cyclists only.

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