Widow calls for halt on wire rope barrier ads

Widow calls for halt on wire rope barrier ads

The widow of a rider killed in a crash involving a dead kangaroo and wire rope barriers (WRB) has called on the Victorian Government to halt “devastating” ads promoting the alleged safety of the barriers.

Jan White’s husband, Phil, aged 60, died when his bike unavoidably hit a dead kangaroo on a 110km/h slightly sweeping bend of the Calder Highway on November 5, 2017.

Click here to sign a petition against the rollout of WRBs.


She says her whole family is “heart-broken” by the “insensitive” ads which she wants halted until the safety of the barriers to riders can be resolved.

“It’s devastating. It’s thoughtless and unfair. It’s causing all of us a great deal of pain and grief,” she says.

Coronial inquiry

Jan would also like a Coronial Inquest into the death of her husband.

Exactly what happened in the incident still remains a mystery to Jan.

She has seen the Coroner’s Report, the Medical Examiner’s Report and the Toxicology Report, but has not yet seen the police report which she believes may differ from the others.

Jan also received a single-page document warning her that she is unable to provide information, publish or provide copies to any person, including the media, other than for the purpose of obtaining medical or legal advice.

“I will face six months’ jail or $10,000 fine if I do,” she says.

“I obviously am not interested in that type of holiday.”

Halt ads

Widow calls for halt on wire rope barrier adsWidow calls for halt on wire rope barrier ads
Phil with his beloved Softail

However, she is calling on Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan to halt the WRB ads until a Coronial Inquiry can determine the actual cause of Phil’s death.

“I’m confused about it all and want to know what happened,” Jan says. “There are a lot of motorcycle riders against these wire rope barriers.”

In fact, even the Victoria Country Fire Fire Authority has criticised the rollout of WRBs, saying they block access to crashes and bushfires

A spokesman for Minister for Roads Luke Donnellan replied:

The TAC has been a world leader in road safety campaigns for decades and has been instrumental in driving down the road toll in Victoria. The TAC determines what issues it wants to address in its campaigns based on evidence and these campaigns are entirely a matter for TAC. We encourage people to reach out to Road Trauma Support Services, a not-for-profit organisation that provides counselling and support to people affected by road trauma, amongst other services.

Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan Luke Donnellan Widow calls for halt on wire rope barrier ads
Victorian Roads Minister Luke Donnellan

The spokesman also provided this “background information”:

Wire Rope Barriers have been studied in Australia and around the world for more than 30 years. These studies show, unequivocally, that barriers save lives. There is no evidence, anywhere in the world that supports the claim that flexible safety barriers increase risks to motorcyclists. Internationally, there has been found to a 40-50 per cent reduction in motorcyclist deaths in jurisdictions with flexible safety barriers.

True. But there is also NO evidence that WRBs are beneficial to rider safety!

Jan believes Phil’s bike hit the dead kangaroo and he was catapulted into the centre median barriers on the edge of the road, knocking down four uprights.

His Harley-Davidson Softail was written off, but not badly damaged, as it slid under the barrier.

“It happened on a slight bend on the Calder Highway with two lanes either way divided by clear grass, no trees and barriers right up on either side of the grass area,” Jan says.

“Why would they put barriers there? Maybe one down the centre median of the huge expanse of grassed vacant land.”

TAC repliesWire rope barriers millions Widow calls for halt on wire rope barrier ads

Jan says two of Phil’s daughters, Molly and Madison, contacted the Victorian Traffic Accident Commission to make a formal complaint about their “safety barrier” ads.

Months later, the TAC replied asking to meet with them, yet advising that the ads would continue.

“We understand that hearing the story of another father in the TV ad about Peter and Graham on the Melba Highway is very confronting,” the email said.

“Two of us from the advertising team at TAC would like to spend some time with you and we are hoping a Road Trauma Support person will be able to join us too.

We also need to let you know that there will be more advertising from this Sunday about barriers on country roads. We understand that seeing the ad on TV will be very painful for you and your family. You may prefer not to watch the commercial TV stations where the ad will be shown from 1 July for six weeks.”

Jan says she is offended by the TAC’s reply to Molly and Madison’s request for the ads to be halted.

Legal action

Bad Roads Rally roadworks potholes Victoria wire rope barriers
Wire rope barriers close to road

She is also considering legal action over the crash.

“Up until recently I refuse to think about the circumstances surrounding Phil’s death. I just couldn’t handle it. It’s still difficult,” she says.

“But with the constant heartless ads on TV about the life-saving benefits of wire rope barriers it makes us all have to relive the trauma of the morning of Phil’s death over and over.

“It is so wrong. It has to stop. The authorities need to look into worldwide statistics of motorcycle rider deaths implicated by WRBs and what can be done to reduce these deaths.

“They are just aimed at vehicles and light trucks. I understand that they may have saved some lives in cars, but they have also killed my husband on a motorbike.

“I’ve had advice that the government won’t bat an eyelid until they get litigation about the barriers being a case of death.

“Now I’m thinking if I can be the first one to put a case forward for a call to action, some good for all motorcyclists, nationally, may come out of my husband Phil’s, untimely death, if that is at all possible. I would like to see that.”

22 Comments

  1. never gave it a thought till seeing s this story click link looking for ChangeOrg Petition ( think would be a good idea to do best of luck condolence for your lost prayers almighty Lord God shines healing light compassion strength courge on you an family friends though this difficult time ijn Amen

  2. There was installation of wire rope barriers in Australia in the 1950’s, they were removed due to being declared dangerous. They are at best a knee jerk reaction by Dopey Dan to appear as if Labor is serious about road safety and they don’t give a hoot about the safety of motorcyclists.

    Another new safety concern is that now you cannot pull off the roadway or emergency lanes to even change a tyre safety, it’s all good for Dopey’s emergency services workers, traffic has to slow down to 40Kph, the RACV guys and other vehicle repairers do not get that luxury and have their lives subjected to increased risks.

    In the late 70’s early 80’s Vic roads engineers determined that filling the center median strip with light scrub was the safest way to increase safety and it worked.

  3. I too travel the Calder regularly, and see these barriers as firstly a safety hazard, and second, a WOFTAM exercise. The last cross-over accident was, I believe, close to 10 years ago. The barriers are too close to the road, leaving no margin for error, or avoidance. Quite frankly, I no longer feel safe driving this road.

    On the plus side though, the tax cameras can no longer park on the edges, and coppers have limited spots too……………

  4. The TAC suggest their barriers including wire rope are there to “protect” road users , however what does not seem realised is that these devices offer NO protection.
    Instead the TAC exploits the engineering of motor vehicles which for fifty years has been directed to energy absorption in a collision to protect the occupants. This is an initiative of the vehicle manufacturers NOT TAC .
    When motorcycles are involved no one need be told how it is impossible to deploy energy dissipation manufacturing techniques to protect the rider , so TAC ignore this.
    ALL barriers are an obstacle which if hit will cause damage and fatalities .
    I was told it costs $400/meter to install wire rope , this money should be directed to making the road environment , surface AND the run off edges safer and to give the rider/driver a chance to recover their vehicle.This approach is shown weekly that it works , just look at any motor cycle track and the crashes ( sure there are some fatalities , however this is an extreme use of a motorcycle) most walk away.
    Yet the TAC cynically attempts to take credit for the work of the motor vehicle manufacturers.
    What is more I have had it up to the razoo with Politicians such as Luke Donnellan asserting TAC is a world leader ( show me the research to support this) , .Every politician claims Australia has “world leading” institutions rubbish , this is a nation of obsequious followers.
    If he money collected on petrol excise was directed to road development we could have safe barrier free roads

  5. Maybe a look at the stats on how many vehicles these have stopped from crossing to the wrong side of the road might shed a little light on things. I’ll bet that the number of possible deaths these barriers have saved will far out strip the few riders who have fallen fowl of them. I once attended an incident on the pacific hwy as a fireman where a semi had to break hard and jack-knifed. The barrier stopped it from taking out a number of cars traveling on the opposite side. As a rider I know there are a lot of dangers out there for the motorcyclist but I believe it is not practical to remove a safety feature for the many just to reduce the risk to a few.

    1. Ken, the word you want is brake, not break, and it is foul, not fowl. A fowl is a bird. As to these being called WRSB, safe to whom? They are not being installed to the safe recommendations of vicroads in many instances, and are too close to the road. This is fact, not an opinion. In many cases they are being installed blocking safe run off areas. Once again, fact not an opinion. This is a misguided and deadly effort by the government that believes they are making the roads safer.

  6. Google “Wire rope barriers in Europe” and see the results. Even “Vicroads” stating they are not safe for motorcycle riders (Dec 2014). So what has made them safer since.

  7. From the article:

    Jan also received a single-page document warning her that she is unable to provide information, publish or provide copies to any person, including the media, other than for the purpose of obtaining medical or legal advice.

    From whom was this document received from?

  8. I am Phil White’s sister. I’m not usually one to get involved in bureaucratic politics but I am infuriated by the dismissive and condescending response from the Victorian government to my late brother’s widow and children. Minister Donnellan, there is no dispute the WRBs on Calder Hwy did not cause my brother’s motorbike accident, but they certainly negated any chance he had of surviving impact with them.
    Your response states, “there is no evidence anywhere in the world that supports the claim that flexible safety barriers increase risks to motorcyclist”. Seriously?
    We, Phil’s family, are not comforted by the fact that Phil’s last thoughts would not have been thanking the Victorian government for investing millions in WRBs! Put yourself in his place, Minister Donnellan. Imagine the impact and carnage of a body colliding with steel posts and wire cables. Imagine what Phil’s last thoughts really were. That horrific image is what we now live with … and we didn’t need to search the world looking for evidence!

  9. The TAC, and others, would prefer it if motorcyclists weren’t on the road. Period. Maybe they’re deliberately trying to convince riders that cars are far safer and that they should be in them instead of on their two wheeled deathtrap. Sorry guys, not gonna happen. The fight against these idiotic “safety items” hasn’t got started yet. The clowns supervising the installs cannot even ensure they are installed within the guide line of at least 4m from the carriageway, as per the Vic Roads recommendation. How are we to believe any other BS spin of these incompetent bull shit artists? The proximity to the carriageway, in MANY cases, is such that a simple action, which is fairly common place, such as a lane change, but failing to check the real estate they are entering is clear but relying solely on the fact that they are using their indicator (maybe), which gives them the right to move at will (so many seem to think). There is no escape route with these things. I cannot fathom how those behind them can think they are safe.

  10. If Jan were to do crowd funding to help with the legal action , I would certainly chip in ,and I reckon theres plenty of other motorcyclist that would too

  11. The roll out of such barriers is criminal! Both figuratively and literally. I strongly suspect that there is some palm greasing going on in their over enthusiastic use based on poor evidence of their effectiveness and actually danger they pose to all road users.
    They are a placebo that can kill! They make some road users think they are safer but the likelyhood that they will cause a fatality is as great as their cost.
    The barriers are only effective when in good repair and only against some vehicles, it is only the fact that the majority of vehicles that they are effective against are the majority of vehicles on the road that more fatalities have not occurred.
    Proper analysis of incidents of atypical barrier interaction will show their potential for great harm!
    There is a video of a dump truck crossing onto the wrong side of a highway and nearly colliding with another truck, the WRBs were praised as helping prevent a major accident BUT a closer look at the video shows that the WRB caused the accident and had little effect in slowing the large vehicle. Had there been no WRBs or had they been properly placed away from the road in the centre of the very large grass median there would have been no accident at all!
    The accident occurred due to the truck driver having swerved to avoid rear ending a car, had the barriers not been there or in the centre of the median the truck would have simply driven down the side of the median and probably recovered, but the WRB caught the front wheel of the truck and steered it across the entire width of the median and across two lanes of the highway. Had there not been a third lane and had there been heavy traffic on the road it probably would have been a multiple fatality accident.
    In the advertising they have used one of the few vehicles that the barriers are effective against and hit it at the shallowest angle possible. At more acute angles with vehicles with pointier noses the vehicles just drive through the barriers and large trucks just drive over them.

  12. I’d like to know, if WRB are so great and so much safer than the Armco railings or concrete barriers, then why aren’t they used on race circuits for the Super Cars and at Drag strips etc!?

  13. here is a quote from the Irish Times “The installation of such barriers has now been banned in a number of European countries – including Britain, Austria, Norway and the Netherlands – on safety grounds.” and also”They point to research in Germany that was conducted using cadavers that showed motorcycle users were particularly vulnerable to having limbs severed and suffering potentially fatal injuries upon striking the metal stakes that hold up either ropes or narrow guardrails.” so I ask why are they still installing these things

  14. i think it is disgusting of these people to think that these things save motorcyclists lives . I’m pretty sure they are banned in some European countries because they are a danger to riders.

  15. They put this DEATH TRAP WIRE TO STOP CARS HITTING HEAD ON TO SAVE LIVES WHAT ABOUT MOTORCYCLE RIDERS DONT WE MATTER AS WELL GET RID OF THEM AND THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE

  16. TAC why don’t you show advertising for wire barriers saving motorcycle riders lives?
    Oh that’s right bike riders are seen as a minority!

  17. I drive or ride up and down the Calder highway almost everyday and have watched the roll out of these wire barriers. I feeling that they are warranted in some areas, but where there is large grassy separation between the lanes or side of highway the TAC are creating a hazard!!! It’s very disappointing that they cannot see the glaring obvious danger they are exposing motorcyclist too!!

  18. I was in a focus group about this advertising a while back and complained strongly about the naming them “safety barriers” as I felt threatened by them as it limited my emergency evasion options and the threat of unprotected contact of the barriers as a motorcyclist. All the other participants were car drivers and thought I was over reacting.

  19. They seem willing to help out cyclists and keep them safe on our roads but poor old motorbikes, who pay rego, can cop it. How can you implement a safety system that isn’t safe for everyone.

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