Coroner finds bump caused deaths

inspect road hazards

A hidden bump that caused the death of a rider and his pillion may not have been detected by VicRoads because it scans roads in a four-wheeled vehicle, not on a motorcycle.

The Victorian Coroner’s Court did not find VicRoads culpable for the deaths of Mark Rodgers, 47, and partner Jodi Walsham, 42.

However, Coroner Paresa Spanos recommended VicRoads improves training of its inspectors to be aware of vulnerable riders and promote its hotline to report road hazards.

VicRoads accepted the recommendations and pointed out that in February 2019 it announced specialised motorcycle hazard training for road inspection crews.

However it did not agree to inspect the roads on motorcycles.

Tragic crash

In March 2015, Mark was riding his 2007 Harley-Davidson Softail on the Great Alpine Road with partner Jodi as his pillion and another couple following on a 2007 Fat Bob.

Mark rounded a blind left-hand bend after the Devil’s Backbone and hit a bump or “shove” that knocked the bike off course into the path of an oncoming marked Victoria Police Nissan Patrol four-wheel drive.

The bike hit the bullbar and went under the vehicle, bursting into flames. Mark and Jodi could not be revived and sadly died at the scene.

Bump causes death of Mark Rodgers and Jodi Walsham coroner
Mark and Jodi

Bump to blame

Coroner Paresa Spanos heard that the Softail had rounded the corner at more than the 45km/h advisory speed but less than the posted road speed limit of 80km/h.

The Coroner also heard that Honda Blackbird rider Martin Taylor hit the same bump the previous day, fell off his bike and slid across the road.

Martin survived because there were no oncoming vehicles.

Police did not attend the accident and the bump was not reported to VicRoads.

The bump was described by Justin Ezard who was following Mark on a Fat Bob as being like “a mini ramp”.

“It appeared about three foot long, six inches wide and six inches high,” he told the Coroner’s Court.

“It was big and it would not have been any fun to hit it at a faster speed.

“I didn’t lose control when I bit the bump as I hit it ‘dead-on’. It was just the slam when you hit it.”

VicRoads responsibility

Despite police not providing evidence of Mark’s bike hitting the bump, Coroner Spanos found the bump caused the accident and highlighted the “particular vulnerability of motorcycle riders to irregularities in the road surface”.

The Coroner said VicRoads had the responsibility to “inspect, maintain and repair” the arterial road, but had not identified the bump as a hazard to riders.

“This state of affairs would seem to speak to inherent limitations in the current inspection regime with its reliance on a four-wheeled vehicle traversing the roadway that its ill-equipped to discern road conditions that may be more problematic for a two-wheeled vehicle.”

Our view

Bad Roads Rally roadworks potholes Victoria road hazards bump
Victorian rural road

While VicRoads promises to train its inspectors to look out for specific motorcycle road hazards, it has not made any mention of scanning the roads on a motorcycle.

Four-wheeled vehicles can easily detect potholes and bumps in the wheel tracks.

However, only motorcycles can detect these hazards when they lie in between the wheel tracks.

Therefore, authorities need to send out inspectors on motorcycles, rather than in cars.

We believe that bumps, which are often less visible than potholes are worse far worse hazard for riders.

Potholes and bumps bump
A dangerous mid-lane lateral seam or ridge

It is also important for riders to report road hazards to authorities. They may be cynical that they will be fixed, but at least there will be an official record of the report.

9 Comments

  1. More bitumen, not just one inch, but at minumum of four inches on a base of various material allowing for drainage, absorption etc.
    Send engineers to Europe where they build roads to a standard no repair is needed for decades

  2. so much for theMotorcycle Safety Levy being put to practical use.

    I’m sure if anyone in power actually cared, they’d be able to deploy something like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wd0RR-qyPis or perhaps identify and fit a simpler system to every council and police vehicle so we have accurate and current data.

    shame no Australian council I know subscribes to the Waze ‘report road conditions’ service (more proof they don’t care, but possibly tempered by the fact Waze has such an annoying UX for motorcyclists!) but maybe we need to get behind a solution and start reporting these somewhere central and visible to shame them into action… simple geo-tag and flag a hazard (ridge/pothole/gravel or other debris etc) … could even auto email councils if they have email addresses 😉 I’m game to work on something if enough people would use it…

  3. Expect more of this type of event. Cost cutting on road construction and road maintenance contracted out to the lowest bidder. A Laser Scanner mounted front and rear of a inspection vehicle linked to a accurate GPS. It’s not that hard is it. The local councils are aware of the conditions of local roads but the repair contracts are awarded to interstate firms who can’t be held to account for poor repairs. The repairs are certified by their own inhouse inspectors. The roads are stuffed. Taxpayers are being ripped off and people are being killed.

  4. If you want to see bumps and potholes come to the Wimmera Mallee in north west Victoria . Our roads are an absolute disgrace. This is not a new problem for us. Been getting worse over the past 5 – 10 years. Fixing roads to a price not a purpose . Our soil and subsoil move much more than other areas . We need better road foundations to build the roads on .

  5. The talk in the area that weekend was that a junior CFA member manuvered a heavy equipment machine on the road way alledgedly causing the damage to the road In question. Either this road damage wasn’t reported or not acted upon.

    And as common in the last few years, riders who have had Vic police attend single vehicle accident involving motorcycles have discovered that the cops are encouraged to charge the rider with an offence and to take little account of road irregularities. And to ignore riders who claim a any car that they claim to have caused an accident/incident and dont not stop- to again charge the rider with a minimum of careless riding or worse.

    Watch out for them dam cars and ride free! Where did frank end up???

  6. They could do it so damn easily, but its simply a case of don’t care because bikes are only a dangerous toy anyway.
    When will the pollies and councils get it through their thick heads that bikes are the solution to their road damage and congestion problems !!

  7. Blind freddie can see these bumps..I’ve actually sprayed circles around a couple in the sunshine coast hinterland…still took weeks to fix…usually occur in the same areas in high truck usage places And you cant blame the trucks.They pay enough in rego its up to the authorities how they spend it. Vicroads motto should be ‘No care given No responsabilty taken’ If you tripped over a bump like this in woollies car park, The WHS people would be out there and there would be hell to pay

  8. An attachment to the rear of a vehicle with multiple wheels spanning the space of a lane that records the road profile or even a radar device should be fitted to inspection vehicles.
    They could also get heavy long distance trucks to fit a scanner for a discount on their rego.
    By doing this they could quickly obtain accurate information without relying on poorly trained or lazy inspectors, who may be over worked and under funded.

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