Wire road barrier “ramps” need investigation – 4 fatalities in one crash

Four people have died as a car became airborne and hit a tree at Pyalong, Victoria, Australia.  The crashed car is in the rearground having left the road and hit a tree.

I think this officer of Victoria Police is onto something.

(a) Running the front of a car into something brings into play all the design features intended to absorb impact.

(b) BUT in this case the vehicle roof has hit the tree meaning that none of the front-impact design helps.  Assistant Commissioner of Victoria Police, Robert Hill:  “It has struck … the commencement of a wire road barrier. It then travelled airborne for some distance and then has crashed into a tree after rolling.”  “The roof of the vehicle has actually struck the tree.”

(c) Why does a car become airborne?

(d) By the path of the markers the left hand side of the vehicle would have run up the termination of the wire rope “safety” barrier where it meets its anchor.

(e) We shouldn’t be building “ramps” like this beside rural roads.


About John Culvenor

Hi, Thank you for taking a look at this blog. I work in engineering, ergonomics, creativity, design, training, etc. Often this is about helping solve legal puzzles through accident analysis. Sometimes it is about thinking up better designs for equipment, workplaces, and systems. This blog is about good design and bad design, accident analysis and how it can be done better, and how we can make a better, safer world by design!
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6 Responses to Wire road barrier “ramps” need investigation – 4 fatalities in one crash

  1. rodcurrey says:

    I think these wire barriers are not really a good design. They have them on a hi speed freeway on the M1 on the Gold Coast. A number of times trucks just run over the top of them and collide with oncoming traffic. And as in this incident it appears the wire barrier has acted as a ramp. Is there anyone compiling facts about the effectiveness of these barriers? Are these barriers chosen for effectiveness or efficiency and cost?

  2. Yes. We have to wonder what is the point of a barrier that does not stop things (like your M1 truck example) or ramps them into flying projectiles.

  3. Chris J says:

    As a motorcyclist the first time i seen them installed on a major motorway just 1 metre from the inside lane i was horrified at just the thought of the effect on a human body getting caught up in it at 110kph, virtually a chain saw. Ive seen what happens to cars unlucky enough to drop a wheel of the edge and get pulled into the wire fence.

  4. Hi Chris, That is shocking prospect. Some materials are actually cut with wire – cheese for instance.

  5. Bart Janssens says:

    I think the problem with the ramps is not connected to the type of guardrails. Also in concrete and steel, there are ‘ramped’ terminals. In Flanders (Belgium) we try not to use them, but when there isn’t enough space, a ramped terminal is still better then nothing… .

    • Hi Bart,

      Yes, I think so. A problem occurs at the end whatever the material. Obviously terminations are a problem as road authorities overlap one length of barrier with another where it continues. They would not do that if it was just as safe to hit the end as it is mid way.

      A difference seems to be that steel and concrete, owing to their strength in lateral bending, can be more readily curved away so that the ‘ramp’ is not aimed so directly at the traffic.

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