By Clair Morton
Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018
It was a drive Axel Larsen’s wife Leslie always dreaded. The route from Giles Corner to Gawler can be hazardous at the best of times, but in her line of work as a paramedic, Leslie had more than herself to worry about.
“That road has always been in such a bad condition that people in the back of an ambulance are at risk,” Mr Larsen says.
‘That road’ is Horrocks Highway, a 247km stretch of road that takes motorists from Gawler to Wilmington.
You might know it as Main North Rd, or simply the road to the Clare Valley.
Mr Larsen, who has been a member of both the Saddleworth SES and CFS teams for more than 25 years, knows it better as a nightmare waiting to happen.
While the unit covers just a small patch of the highway, he has responded to more than 20 crashes in his time as a volunteer, the majority of which resulted in serious injuries or fatalities.
Because they never know exactly what to expect, every time a call comes in, it’s time-critical.
“Rescue and emergency vehicles are always dealing with poor conditions on that road; when you’re travelling priority one with sirens and lights and still can’t drive past 80km/h you know there’s a problem,” he says.
“Theoretically it could end up costing a life, and perhaps that’s something people don’t think about.”
It seems RAA members agree the road is a problem – potholes, uneven road surfaces and narrow, winding lanes on some sections of the highway are just some of the reasons members voted it as one of the worst in the state, in RAA’s 2017 Risky Roads survey.
Mr Larsen believes the number of casualties will only increase if something isn’t done to improve the condition of the road, as more people travel to the Clare Valley and the traffic flow increases.
“There’s only going to be more traffic and the government needs to make sure the roads can deal with it.”
Following our Risky Roads survey, RAA is calling on all parliamentary candidates and political parties to commit to improving the 90km stretch between Gawler and Clare.
This would include the addition of at least four new overtaking lanes, road barriers, resealing and rumble strips to help reduce the risk of motorists running off the road.
We’re also calling for a commitment to duplicate the stretch of Victor Harbor Rd from Main South Rd to Mount Compass.
RAA’s general manager of Engagement and Innovation, Penny Gale, says the roads were prioritised after extensive member consultation.
“Road trauma affects the broader community in many different ways,” she says.
“To prevent this, we want to see our roads fixed, on behalf of our 700,000 members and the wider motoring community.
“There’s been a backlog on maintenance for SA roads for a long time now and these two roads are simply an example of what we’re seeing state-wide.”