Yet again, the issue of motorists illegally overtaking trams has been highlighted – by Channel 9 on Tuesday, and the Herald Sun on Wednesday.
This follows on from reports as recently as January of motorists hitting tram passengers while breaking road rule 163.
Educating motorists has a role here. There have been education campaigns in the past, and it sounds like this will be happening again.
So does infrastructure – the deployment of platform stops (at least apart from the kerb extension/easy access stop design) can physically prevent motorists coming into conflict with tram passengers.
But there are also quicker fixes. The Herald Sun story notes some of the worst locations for incidents are stops at Toorak Road and Chapel Street in South Yarra. At these locations, southbound (and until not too long ago eastbound – the tram stop has recently been moved) passengers have to cross two lanes of traffic between the tram and the footpath. This is also the case at the South Melbourne location shown above.
This has been a problem for years. Why? Because apparently car throughput is more important than safety – otherwise they would have widened the footpath and reduced the number of traffic lanes.
Apart from education and infrastructure, another essential element is enforcement.
What ever happened to using cameras mounted on trams to routinely fine motorists illegally overtaking stopped trams?
Back in 2007 The Age reported that cameras were being trialled by Yarra Trams.
This included the installation of cameras on Z-class trams.
Apart from the E-class trams, the C and D class trams also have external cameras built-in – this covers every built in the past 20 years, or about 40% of the fleet.
But nothing seems to have come of the trials.
Tram drivers can report incidents, but there are so often that many don’t get reported. Tram drivers themselves note that there’s little they can do.
“At road side stops, motorist(s) don’t stop. … At that moment as a tram driver you feel very useless and try to help people. You gong and they don’t listen.”Exploring the key challenges in tram driving and crash risk factors on the Melbourne tram network: tram driver focus groups – paper by F Nanzin, G Currie, D Logan, 2016
What’s missing here is any kind of automated or semi-automated system to routinely report motorists, in the same manner as Red Light Cameras, as an effective deterrent to breaking this law. Either use the cameras on the trams, or locate them at hot spot tram stops.
It’s 2021. Just about everybody has a camera phone in their pocket, and many motor vehicles have dash cams. It astounds me that cameras on trams aren’t used to enforce this rule, and help keep tram passengers safe.