Experts have warned of a potential threat to public safety if barriers are not installed to stop motorists using electronic devices, such as mobile phones, in the road.
The barriers would be made of electrically conductive material.
If the barriers were to be erected too close together, it could also be difficult to detect when an electronic device was being used.
“If they were to go to the limit, it would make them useless,” said Dr Andrew Mather, a leading Australian researcher on driver behaviour.
“I would be very concerned.”
The barriers could also increase the risk of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists being injured, Mr Mather said.
The Australian Motorcycle Association’s (AMA) Road Safety Strategy (2012) recommends the installation of electromecha- mechanical barriers at intersections.
It states that: “The use of electrified pedestrian crossing barriers can be safely and cost-effectively undertaken by a variety of approaches including electrification of traffic signal and traffic management devices and installation of barriers that can be used to prevent people from using electronic mobility devices.”
The AMA recommends that the barriers be made from materials that can withstand temperatures as low as -40C and be easy to install.
The American Society of Civil Engineers’ National Traffic Safety Strategy recommends the use of electro-magnetic barriers to deter drivers from using handheld electronic devices.
The Society’s report recommends the design and installation be made with an emphasis on reducing the risk that such devices could be used by people in a vehicle, as well as reducing the impact of the devices on the environment.
“We need to make sure that our vehicles are safe for our drivers to use, and we have to consider whether that means we can have barrier-free environments,” AMA president Bob Cottrell said.
“Electromechanics have the potential to do just that.”
Mr Cottell said that barrier-less pedestrian crossing zones were not recommended as a solution to traffic deaths, but that the technology could be useful in certain situations.
“A lot of people don’t think about pedestrian safety, so it’s not a big deal,” he said.
He said it was also important that the designs were made with a view to increasing the safety of the public.
“It’s not necessarily a good thing if it’s a good idea and it can be dangerous, but it can certainly be useful,” he added.
The road safety strategy recommends installing barriers at every point along the road, but said the barriers should not be placed closer than 50 centimetres apart, because of their weight.
“When you have barriers on the road they can create a barrier that can’t be seen by a pedestrian, so if it is placed in the middle of a busy street you might see that it’s being used more than it’s used, so you need to put them as close as possible,” Mr Cettell said.
An Australian Government study has also recommended that barriers be installed in areas where there are high pedestrian volumes.
Mr Cattrell said that a barrier should not have to be visible to drivers.
“You need to be able to see it and it’s got to be as simple as possible, so a simple LED screen or a reflective pad would be the most effective,” he explained.
“The barrier itself is designed so that it doesn’t interfere with traffic flow and it doesn, but when you have a large number of people using it, the traffic flow is going to be a little bit slower.”
The Victorian Government has also called for barriers to be installed where there is a high volume of pedestrians.
It has also identified a number of issues surrounding the technology.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads’ Road Safety Advisory Committee said the installation should be limited to only one point on the highway.
“There are many issues that need to address, including the fact that it could be difficult for the police to detect if the barrier is being used, and it could cause a disruption to traffic flow,” Dr Andrew White said.
A new report on pedestrian safety has also been released by the National Safety Council.
It outlines how pedestrian safety is being impacted by the technology that could be the future of driver behaviour, including pedestrian crossing technologies.
The report found that: • The introduction of barrier-based pedestrian crossings has been linked to an increase in injuries to pedestrians and cyclists.
• It is estimated that 1,500 pedestrian deaths each year are linked to barriers, and that about 400 of these fatalities are pedestrians.
• There have been a total of 3,000 fatalities involving barriers in the past five years.
• The use of barrier systems has been associated with a decrease in traffic speed, and an increase on-street collisions.
• Barrier-based systems have been found to reduce the time spent in the crosswalk, and reduce the number of collisions.
“In addition, barriers have been shown to reduce fatalities and serious injuries, and to reduce crashes,” the report said.
It recommended that the government develop and implement a strategy to reduce