Monash, Mornington freeways closed after fatalities

The Age: Monash, Mornington freeways closed after fatalities. November 17, 2014. Clay Lucas City Editor, The Age

Two people die in a in a fiery crash on the Mornington Peninsula Freeway and a 60-year-old motorcyclist is killed on the Monash Freeway.

Two of Melbourne’s busiest freeways were closed for several hours on Monday after three people died in fatal accidents.

The freeway closures caused traffic chaos, especially in south-eastern Melbourne, where Monash Freeway was shut for four hours after a motorcyclist died, and traffic diverted onto local roads.

It was the third time in a week that major Melbourne freeways were shut after accidents.

The Mornington Penninsula Freeway was closed off today due to a double road fatality. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

Monday’s road deaths led to transport experts calling for more action to make vehicles safer, and consideration of introducing freeway congestion charges to convince more people not to drive.

The Monash Freeway – which carries 155,000 cars a day, with one in 10 of these vehicles a truck – was closed for four hours after a motorcycle fatality.

A 60-year-old from Clayton was riding his motorcycle on the freeway at 8.25am when the car in front of him braked suddenly.

Accident site: A motorcyclist is believed dead after a crash on the Monash Freeway. Photo: Larissa Nicholson

The motorcyclist hit the rear of the car, then fell on the ground into the path of a passing truck in an adjacent lane of traffic.

Later on Monday afternoon, on the Mornington Peninsula Freeway, two cars travelling at high speeds left the road, with one hitting a tree and bursting into flames, killing the two occupants. The driver of the other car was also injured.

Monash University Accident Research Centre professor Brian Fildes said that these sorts of crashes that had a major impact on cities were terrible, and would inevitably create awful traffic issues while emergency services dealt with their aftermath _ and cleared the scene to gather evidence.

He said the Victorian road toll, which has fallen dramatically over the last four decades – from 1034 Victorians dead on the roads in 1969 to last year’s 201 deaths – should be lower still.

Professor Fildes said initiatives like speed cameras had a big effect in improving safety in recent decades, along with far safer cars.

But the rapidly evolving trend for more autonomous vehicles and high-technology features like emergency braking would mean even fewer would die.

“Autonomous emergency braking” – a feature on some new cars that meant if a driver failed to brake their car would take over braking – would help reduce deaths, he said. “It doesn’t always prevent the crash, but it will reduce the severity,” Professor Fildes said. And features like lane departures warnings would also assist, he said.

Sydney University Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies professor John Stanley, an expert on Melbourne’s road system, said the city needed a debate on congestion charging to help convince fewer to drive on the city’s freeways.

“Putting pricing on roads is something we have to do – it’s the only way. Anything else you do like increasing capacity just generates extra traffic,” he said.

Professor Stanley said that putting a tax on cars using freeways or local roads would never be popular. “But when you look at the cities that have introduced it, like Stockholm and London, it was unpopular but now a majority of people are in favour of it,” he said.

He said a congestion charge would help with road safety because it would see fewer people driving.

Professor Stanley said the city would always be vulnerable to major upheaval in the event of a road fatality on the Monash-M1 freeway corridor, unless an alternative road was built.

He said he backed the North East Link – a freeway through Heidelberg and Greensborough – over the Napthine government’s proposed East West Link.

“It would allow people go around the city rather than almost through the centre,” he said.

Last Wednesday the Monash was closed in both directions for about four hours after a chemical spill involving a drum of leaking aviation fuel.

And last Thursday, a man was trapped for more than three hours after his car was crushed between two trucks on the Princes Freeway at Point Cook.

– with Marissa Calligeros and Robyn Grace