Have you ever really thought about how road conditions affect the safety of your journey, or the headspace you are in on the way or when you arrive?
How do you usually plan your driving journey? You might use Google Maps, or you know your way as you’ve done it many times. Either way, you have a plan. You are confident you will arrive on time, so you’re good to go.
But then there is the ‘X-factor’ – road conditions. This can be weather, congestion, road works, incidents or pavement wear (commonly referred to as pot holes).
The same journey one day to the next, or entirely new and Google Map-reliant, can go entirely pear-shaped because the road conditions have suddenly changed – and therefore the entire journey. Unexpected road conditions certainly changed the journey for these poor folk trying to get out of town after Christmas, for example.
Your anxiety and stress levels rise, because the planned timeline you had in your head remains constant.
Of roads and flooding rains
In recent times, our roads have endured fires, floods and heavy rainfall. We have pot holes galore as high moisture physically breaks down our road pavement, and then there is the road works repairing them. In October 2022, RACV estimated in Victoria alone thanks to the October floods 43,000 (and counting) pot holes had been repaired.
This poses a huge risk to all road uses because poor conditions of pavement and road markings have been identified as a critical factor in road incidents  .
It can happen so easily: a pot hole can physically damage the vehicle wheel, or if you slam the brakes on that poses a risk to the driver behind.
As a result, these constantly changing road conditions not only affect your travel plan but lead to greater congested streets, impacting all drivers. Delays, and sudden changes and notifications directly affect driver behaviour and increase crash probability .
The other thing to keep in mind is the road speed signage may now be out of sync with what is actually safe for the prevailing conditions. Drivers should always drive to the conditions. In difficult driving conditions, certain speeds become inappropriate, and wet weather and other influences may mean that even driving within the posted speed limit is still dangerous.
Don’t play the game of risk
When road conditions do change, don’t take it personally. Take a deep breath and as much as you can try to let the pressure roll away. Rushing or trying to play catch up only increases your risk. Here are some recommendations to help.
Tips for drivers
- Locate or check on road closures along your journey so you can avoid the area
- Allow extra time
- Consider the conditions and if going regional check with locals to get their insights
- Slow down – drive to the conditions
- If you see a pot hole or major issue, report it
- Be considerate to road workers and emergency response – they are doing their job and deserve to do it safely
Tips for organisations
- Keep staff updated on relevant weather conditions or disruptions that may be occur
- Establish journey plans and plan for remote areas
- If conditions are looking poor, consider if working remotely is possible
- Listen to your workers and drivers if they raise issues – and act on them
- . J. Lee, B. Nam and M. Abdel-Aty, “Effects of Pavement Surface Conditions on Traffic Crash Severity,” Journal of Transportation Engineering, vol. 141, no. 10, 2015.
- . A. J. Anarkooli, I. Nemtsov and B. Persaud, “Safety effects of maintenance treatments to improve pavement condition on two-lane rural roads — insights for pavement management,” Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, 2020.
- . M. H. Belzer, “Work-stress factors associated with truck crashes: An exploratory analysis,” The Economic and Labour Relations Review, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 289-307, 2018.
-  Road safety (police.vic.gov.au)
-  Austroads, “Road Design for Heavy Vehicles,” 201