Drivers feel safer, and get to where they need to go faster, when there are overtaking lanes on two-lane, two-way highways – the likes of which criss-cross the Australian countryside.
Passing lanes can reduce accidents by 16 per cent on highways, according to a new study from the Australia Road Research Board (ARRB).
The report found overtaking lanes added to two-lane, two-way roads – the likes of which feature prominently in rural and semi-rural Australia – also reduce congestion by 10 per cent.
Dr. Ian Espada from the ARRB described the lanes as a "good investment", arguing they offer "improvements in operation and safety benefits" for motorists.
Those benefits are clearly being recognised by road users, with the report finding 84 per cent of people will wait for an overtaking lane instead of crossing into oncoming lanes, when the option is provided.
"Signs informing of availability of passing lanes 2 to 3 km in advance encouraged motorists to forego overtaking using the opposing lane and
wait to overtake using the passing lane instead," the report says.
"Analysis of traffic data also showed that passing lanes impact choice of location of overtaking, differential speed, headway, and gap such that overtaking is executed in a manner that can be considered safer than overtaking on the opposing lane."
Add to that the fact 52 per cent of people said they felt "slightly unsafe" when crossing onto the 'wrong side' of the road to pass, while a further 12 per cent felt "very unsafe".
That's not to say added lanes are a perfect solution. Although not widely reported, 53 per cent of people reported unsafe merging when the lanes end, and 54 per cent said they noticed tailgating at their beginning.
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