Category: Editorial

Having read a recent article “Vicious Cycle” in the Geelong Advertiser on 29 November 2018, Tom Burgoyne of our Geelong office had cause to reflect on an article that appeared on 26 June 2013, “Motorbike Crash Crisis”.  These are Tom’s thoughts:

As noted in the “Vicious Cycle” article there were said to have been 84 motorcyclists hospitalised in the last year as a result of transport accidents on roads in our region.  There were said to be 4 fatal transport accidents which took the lives of motorcyclists.  Looking back at the article from 2013 it was noted by the CEO of the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) at that time that “The statistics show the number of people needing more than 14 days hospitalisation after a crash is down by 45 per cent…so we know some improvements are being made”.  So, what has happened?

In my experience these accidents arise from a myriad of causes.  Victoria Police have noted speed, most particularly along our coastal roads as a factor for motorcyclists.  However, there are many safety-conscious motorcyclists who have sustained injury due to the inattention of drivers of 4-wheeled vehicles.

Safety and not blame is at the core of the TAC’s latest campaign “Driver Think Rider/Rider Think Driver” and I applaud this.  It strikes at the heart of the issue:  reciprocity of respect among road users is key.

Research from the Monash University Accident Research Centre is cited as revealing “a third of all motorcycle injury crashes occur on regional roads” .  With the inevitable rush of the festive season upon us, it is indeed time for patience and respect for all road users.  No family should suffer empty seats at their table.

The role that cyclists play as road users has become a topic of interest in recent times.  Demands have been made for cyclists to, amongst many other things, register their bicycles and pay an insurance levy to cover any claims that may be made as a result of a transport accident under the TAC scheme.

It is important to recognise that cyclists are amongst our most vulnerable road users and have been pilloried, whether right or wrong, for a reported failure to adequately abide by the road rules.  A lot of the venting is typically directed at the highly visible lycra wearing cyclists who enjoy riding their bike as a mode of transportation in addition to a means of improving health and well-being.

Whilst opinions abound about the failure of cyclists to pay a registration and the potential drain that cyclists may pose on the TAC scheme, it has recently been suggested that it may be appropriate to relax helmet laws throughout Australia.  The TAC scheme provides compensation to people injured as a result of a transport accident and covers cyclists in many instances.  The removal of the mandatory requirement for cyclists to wear helmets will greatly increase the risk of injury and death to cyclists.

Victoria has the proud history of being the first jurisdiction in the world to make helmets compulsory.  We understand that the party behind the push is not suggesting that it doesn’t see the benefit of helmets, just that there should be a right for an adult, in certain low-risk circumstances, to choose whether to wear a helmet.  We understand that they currently continue to support the requirement for a helmet when riding on the road.

The removal of the need to wear a helmet, even in limited circumstances, in our view would lead us down a slippery slope.  Mandatory helmets draw a clear line in relation to community expectations and avoid grey areas.

Helmets are a matter of life and death.  A small restriction on our liberties now is worthwhile to avoid death or a lifetime of suffering for injured cyclists and their loved ones.

 

Whilst most members of our community are aware that the TAC is the statutory insurer responsible for paying compensation to those injured in a transport accident, fewer are aware of the responsibilities that are delegated to our road authorities.  Our responsible road authorities include local councils and VicRoads.

Road authorities are responsible for construction, inspection and maintenance of our roads.  In circumstances where there is a hazard, of which the road authorities are aware, they are responsible for the investigation and rectification of the hazard.

Due to limited budgets, growing populations and expanding road networks, road authorities are under pressure to adequately maintain our roads. Sadly, regional people continue to be over represented in our road toll, with road infrastructure continuing to play a part in regional accidents.  Accident hot spots continue to exist on our road networks.  Of recent times in Ballarat, high profile accidents on Cherry Flat Road and the intersections along Sturt Street have made the state of our regional road infrastructure front of mind. A number of accidents in the Geelong region, such as at the intersection of Orton Street and Presidents Avenue in Ocean Grove, also highlight the need for road authorities to monitor and adapt their designs of existing dangerous intersections in line with community expectations around safety.  Listening to local residents should be at the heart of such reviews.

Whilst increased investment in our regional roads is a must to keep our friends and families safe,  our regional communities can assist the road authorities in the exercise of their responsibilities by providing prompt notification of hazards to ensure that improvements can occur expeditiously.

For those injured where the condition of a public road or infrastructure was a contributing factor, if commencing proceedings it is important to be aware that the Road Management Act requires a claimant to provide written notice of the incident to the responsible road authority within a “prescribed period”.  The prescribed period can be as short as 30 days from the date of the incident.  Failure to provide written notice within the prescribed period may prejudice a claimant’s ability to successfully prosecute a claim.

Utilisation of the notification provisions may also help to avoid harm to other road users.  Notification may lead the responsible authority to inspect the condition of the road or infrastructure and undertake repairs.  If a report is created by the responsible authority, it is required to provide a copy of the report to the person who provided the notice.

The completion of the notice of incident requires prescribed particulars to be included.  These details may be difficult to ascertain after the fact.  To assist in the completion of the required notice it is advisable to take photographs that enable the person to precisely identify the nature and location of the hazard.  In addition, it is important to take particulars of the date and time of the incident.

If you need assistance in providing notification of a hazard or defect, bringing or lodging a claim for compensation, contact your local Fortitude Legal expert.

This month marks Tradies National Health Month 2018, an initiative of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, seeking to raise awareness of the health and injury risks that those working in trade occupations face.  According to Safe Work Australia, tradies are over represented when it comes to suffering a serious injury at work.  Tradies make up 30% of the workforce yet 58% of serious claims for worker’s compensation come from tradies which is a worrying statistic. The good news is that if we all work together and take responsibility we can help reduce this statistic.

For a tradie, their tools of trade are their pride and joy, and many will go to great lengths to ensure they are well maintained and in good shape.  But what about a tradie’s health, body and well-being?  Do tradies spend as much time on themselves, ensuring that they are well maintained and in good shape?

As a personal injury law firm specialising in assisting our regional tradies access the treatment they need and the compensation they deserve after sustaining an injury at work, we see all too often that many injuries could have been prevented or the severity of the injury lessened had employers and tradies put health and safety at the forefront of their mind.  The Australian Physiotherapy Association suggests that simple things such as warming up and stretching before starting work and being taught the correct lifting technique can help reduce the incidence of musculo-skeletal and soft tissue injuries.  Employers should ensure that proper risks assessments are undertaken of the duties that tradies are being asked to perform and that injury prevention and management techniques are incorporated into a tradies daily work routine.

If a tradie isn’t feeling 100% then they should be encouraged by their employer and family to contact a health professional and get on top of the injury or condition, instead of just soldering on and putting up with it.  It’s possible that early intervention may mean a quicker recovery and less tools down in the long run.

If employers and tradies take a collaborative approach to health and safety, then hopefully we will start to see the rate of serious injury claims reduce.

Whilst it has been pleasing to see government expenditure leading to an improvement in road infrastructure in our regional communities, it is apparent that there is more to be done.

The statistics demonstrate that you are far more likely to die in a transport accident in regional Victoria than in Melbourne.  In 2017 there were 157 deaths on roads in regional Victoria, compared to 102 in Melbourne.  This statistic is made even more startling when you consider that Melbourne holds approximately three quarters of Victoria’s population.

Whilst one death on our roads is one too many, we need to ensure that there is a continued focus on our roads to reduce the impact of road toll on our regional communities.

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