Something really ought to be done about the way 40km/hr signs are deployed around roadworks in the ACT. It isn’t working, and it’s annoying road-users.
A recent informal poll at my workplace suggested that everybody agrees that road workers need to be protected, and that 40 km/hr signs are right and proper when they are actually next to roadworks. But pretty much everyone thinks they way they’re being used in the ACT is ridiculous, and the general view is that they don’t work.
In the ACT, 40 zones are being deployed when it just isn’t necessary – when there is no danger to drivers or workers (or even, as has recently been the case along Belconnen way, when there are no workers present at all). Over the years, I have actually seen 40 zones put up a fortnight before any roadworks began, and not taken down for a fortnight after they were complete (Northborne avenue. 1999/2000). The signs are sometimes placed up to a hundred meters before and after the roadworks. Why? What possible purpose does that serve? If people are going to speed, they’ll speed no matter far out the signs are. How about just putting the signs next to the roadworks?
The problem is that road users aren’t buying it. They might as well have 60 km/hr signs on the current Belconnen way roadworks, because that’s how fast the traffic moves on weekdays. If that’s a danger to workers, then the current approach is failing them.
Part of the problem is that the zones (at least leading in and out of Belconnen) are not being enforced properly. Nobody believes they’re going to get caught, and they’re basically right.
A more serious problem (I believe) is that drivers feel like they’re being treated like mugs. The signs don’t realistically consider the road conditions and they apply when no work is under way at all. And I don’t just mean during particular hours of the day – there was a 40 zone beneath an overpass at Glenloch/GDE for several weeks while all work had quite obviously halted and there was no risk to anybody. Nobody is going to obey that sort of silliness forever and, after a couple of weeks of ignoring the signs, drivers simply kept ignoring them when work resumed. Total benefit to road workers – nil. And steadily making the zones longer is no solution either – it just compounds the problem and actively encourages drivers to ignore the signs and use their own judgment.
I think we can do better. If speed zones really do protect road workers, then we really ought to do better. Here’s my suggestion:
(1) Start putting up sensible speed zones. Don’t stretch them out over kilometers if the work is only happening in a small section. If 80 is too fast because a lane is closed but there’s no actual work going on, then consider a 60 zone. Don’t just whack 40 signs from Belconnen to Braddon to protect the witches’ hats or some machinery parked next to black mountain CSIRO. Road users just aren’t that silly. Ideally, I’d like to see drivers be allowed to use their judgment – perhaps allow them to do 60 in the zone, but slow down to 40 when passing any people. It’s basically what drivers are now doing anyway.
(2) Start properly enforcing the speed zones. If the people setting out the signs started being reasonable, I doubt many would protest if police really threw the book at drivers who ignore them. Put in place a sensible set of rules and put a radar camera on every works site. Lets start protecting the workers and respecting road users.
Disclaimer: I have never received a ticket for speeding in a roadwork zone.