Russian roulette

Stephen Kinnersly (from left), Pam Bateman and Ian Thornton are among residents who are campaigning for safety measures to be installed on the Princes Highway at the notorious Gnotuk Lane intersection.

WHEN residents of Gnotuk Lane turn onto the Princes Highway the term ‘Russian roulette’ comes to mind.

Located ‘smack bang in the middle’ of a sharp bend, the intersection’s poor sight lines and the highway’s 100kph speed limit make it difficult to enter and exit.

The Darlington Road intersection located immediately opposite only adds to the danger.

Resident Pam Bateman said the sight lines, both to the east and west, were a huge issue.

“It takes just seven seconds from the moment you first spot an approaching vehicle to the moment it reaches the middle of the intersection,” she said.

“Add to that the fact that we enter from a standing start and are still increasing our speed while the traffic already on the highway is travelling at 100kph.

“That means we only have about seven seconds to check for vehicles approaching from the east and west and Darlington Road, make the turn onto the highway and get our vehicles up to speed so that we’re not rear-ended by any approaching traffic.”

Fellow resident Ian Thornton said the bend was the “worst engineered corner in Australia”.

“When we are slowing down to enter Gnotuk Lane from the east there’s nowhere for traffic behind us to go,” he said.

“It’s common for cars to use the Darlington Road turning lane to pass us, but if there is a car already sitting in that lane waiting to turn, there is nowhere for anyone to go – there’s been plenty of times when we’ve had to veer off to the side to avoid a collision.

“The camber of the corner is also pretty bad, so that trucks, particularly b-doubles, approaching from the west often cross onto the wrong side of the centre line and add to the problem.”

After recording the approach times of 10 vehicles from each direction, Gnotuk Lane residents reveal poor sight lines mean they have an average of just seven seconds from the west (above) and 7.5 seconds from the east (below) to enter the highway and reach the 100kph speed limit.

At their wits end, the residents have now formally written to VicRoads, the Minister for Roads and Ports Tim Pallas, Member for Wannon Dan Tehan, Member for Polwarth Richard Riordon and the Corangamite Shire Council seeking a solution.

The residents have called for the highway’s speed limit to be reduced to 80kph at the intersection and for the construction of a left hand turn-in lane on the west-bound lane.

The residents have also called for a mirror to be placed on the highway opposite Gnotuk Lane to allow for better vision around the bend of approaching east-bound traffic.

“There are so many near misses here – as residents, we’re constantly hearing truck brakes screeching and horns blasting,” Mr Thornton said.

“The trucks are travelling along at 100kph and then all of a sudden they come around the Gnotuk bend and there’s a car that’s just turned onto the highway in front of them that’s travelling at half that speed.

“It’s so incredibly dangerous, frightening really.

“It’s even worse over busy weekends like the Port Fairy Folk Festival when there’s barely a break in the traffic.”

Mrs Bateman said the situation was 100 times worse in foggy conditions.

“You can’t see a thing,” she said.

“You have to sit there with your car windows down and the radio off and rely on your hearing – it really is playing Russian roulette with our own lives.”

Nearby Princes Highway resident Stephen Kinnersly runs an earthmoving business and said entering the intersection from Darlington Road had the same issues.

“If I’ve got the excavator on the back, it’s even worse because you just haven’t got the ability to pick up speed quickly,” he said.

“I might only get half way around the corner and all of a sudden there’s a truck bearing down on me – it’s just lucky that my truck’s got ABS brakes.”

Mr Thornton said the residents were keen to hear back from VicRoads and to work on a solution.

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