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Campaign to protect vulnerable road workers

Bike riders are not the only people to experience the threatening whoosh of a far-too-fast vehicle passing on the street—road workers also confront the nasty face of driving every day.

Injuries and even fatalities occur much too often as road workers go about the job of making our roads smother and safer for all road users.

Governments across Australia are moving to toughen the laws and bring public attention to the risks that speeding drivers are bringing to construction zones, and also to emergency workers.

The everyday dangers faced by Victorian roadside workers and first responders are at the centre of a new road safety campaign urging motorists to slow down.

The campaign profiles five people who either work on the roads, or for emergency services, and highlights how their safety is at stake when people speed or drive dangerously past them.

Since 2017, it has been law in Victoria to slow down to 40 km/h or less, when passing law enforcement and emergency services that are active or with lights flashing. In addition, it is law to slow down to the posted speed limit when passing other roadside workers.

Despite the laws, too many motorists continue to speed and drive dangerously when passing these workers, putting their lives at risk.

Victoria Police actively enforce motorists slowing to 40km/h when passing a stationary emergency vehicle with emergency lights flashing. In 2020 alone, police issued 503 infringements for this offence.

The penalty for breaching the rule is 1.75 penalty units ($272.05), with the maximum court penalty of 5 penalty units ($777.30).

Drivers can be detected by a laser or other speed measuring device, in-car video, and emergency workers can also make reports to police if they witness an incident.

Reduced speed limits are in place around road works and while there are people working along the road side.

You may see temporary speed signs showing lower speed limits when approaching roadworks or other works that are being undertaken. Road users need to slow to the temporary limit for all works including those being undertaken by council workers or when people are conducting repairs to infrastructure and powerlines.

Bike riders should especially note that even when there are no workers on site there can still be dangers from the work underway, especially in low-light conditions.

These dangers can include:
  • Narrow lane widths
  • Barriers very close to traffic lanes
  • Deep trenches
  • Loose gravel on the road
  • Soft road surfaces, or
  • Humps and drops in the road

A lower posted speed limit is a good indication that road conditions may have changed and extra care is needed.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.