Police issue warnings for potholes on regional roads, update caravan safety

Heavy rain and floods in recent months have destroyed thousands of kilometres of country roads, and there hasn’t been enough time to fully repair them. And caravan warnings have been updated. Here’s what you need to know.

Police in NSW have a warning for local and interstate drivers travelling to regional areas this holiday season.

Dangerous and severe potholes – which can damage wheels, tyres and suspension if struck at speed – are dotted along thousands of kilometres of regional roads, and road crews haven’t had time or the resources to fully repair them all.

While most of the larger potholes have temporary warning signs, some councils have reported running out of them.

Many potholes have had temporary repairs and been filled in, however they quickly deteriorate as soon as heavy vehicles or a lot of traffic crosses them – and they’re back to their original, dangerous condition.

The NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol Command has posted a lengthy warning on social media from an officer based in an area so remote, the highway patrol vehicle is a Toyota LandCruiser.

“Regional NSW can be a great place to explore and this holiday season we’ll see a large amount of people travelling these roads all across the state,” the senior constable told the NSW Police Instagram page.

“However, regional roads can pose additional hazards, even to locals who might be familiar with them. As a result of the recent rain and flooding many of these roads have become impacted.

“Before you set out on your journey, double check that the roads you intend to drive on are clear. Always obey road closure and detour signs. Leave some time in your trip to make adjustments if you need to.”

The officer said at the moment, potholes and other road damage “can be quite severe pose a real danger.”

“So when driving on these roads, ensure that you drive to the conditions in front of you.”

Police also took the opportunity to keep an eye out for animals – especially at dusk and dawn. As previously reported, road safety experts say it is safer to slam the brakes in a straight line rather than swerve.

Animal activists also reluctantly agree that it is better to brake in a straight line rather than swerve in an attempt to avoid an animal – and risk hitting another car or skidding out of control.

“Animals often cross out roads in order to search for food, so when driving around animals, bushland or thick scrub, always slow down and drive to the conditions,” said the holiday road warning issued by NSW Police.

“And give yourself time to react, especially if you’re driving at night, at dusk or at dawn.”

The police officer also pleaded with drivers not familiar with regional roads to be mindful of the extra time it takes for trucks and vehicles towing a caravan to stop – and the time it takes to overtake them.

“Road trains and trucks carrying oversized loads often travel in these regions as well,” said police.

“When driving around these vehicles, consider how much roadway they require and how much more roadway you’ll need to overtake them. And remember, never overtake unless you can see clearly ahead and it is both safe and legal to do so.”

As previously reported, it also illegal to overtake when there are two lanes of traffic coming towards you but there are only vehicles occupying the oncoming slow lane.

Meantime, following the record increase in caravan sales, NSW Police reminded motorists to make sure their vehicle and caravan combination is not overloaded.

Many drivers new to the caravan lifestyle do not grasp the importance of staying within a vehicle's Gross Vehicle Mass and Gross Combination Mass and that, if they're not careful, they could breach one or both of these limits.

Police will be doing routine checks for caravan safety and have recently run a number of caravan safety education days.

Following the overwhelming response, there is likely to be more caravan enforcement – and education days.

The NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol Command recently reminded those who tow caravans: "Our Officers see many blown out tyres around the state, and so many blown out tyres on trailers are aged and badly cracked, yet still have at least the minimum tread wear depth of 1.5mm remaining.

"So when we and other industry partners offer (advice regarding old tyres that on the surface may appear to have a legal tread depth), we do so in the interest of Road Safety.

"At this time, there is no current requirement to undertake additional training to tow a trailer behind a (car, SUV or ute)."

However, police encouraged motorists who are new to caravan towing to familiarise themselves with the legalities and general safety advice, either via free education days or through professional providers.

"We strongly recommend people towing to empower yourself with knowledge, especially when it comes to your own vehicle weights and the distribution of your loads," said police.

"There are many companies that offer this service, and there are many caravanning Facebook groups that can direct you in the right direction to find these companies in your area.

"Make sure that you get weighed as you would holiday. That is, fully fuelled, water tanks full (if you free-camp), with all your kit, including clothes, tools, drinks, food and your family.

"A few (vehicles inspected at a recent education day) have already had GVM/GCM upgrades, and passed without any issues. A few are now in conversation about GVM/GCM upgrades to comply."

Joshua Dowling

Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for more than 10 years.

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