Safety concerns on ‘death trap’ road

Bryce Eishold

An urgent safety inspection has been launched into a steep, rural road at Trafalgar after a tractor rolled down an embankment and into a residential backyard on Friday.

Slatters Road, described by one local as a ‘death trap’, will be the focus of a Baw Baw Shire Council investigation after a fencing contractor – towing the tractor on a trailer behind his truck – was unable to get up the steep road last week.

Resident of 21 years, Graeme Rankin, said the truck driver was forced to unload the tractor on the unsealed section of Slatters Road before the truck, trailer and tractor lost traction, causing the tractor to crash into his backyard.

While the incident is being investigated by police, the operator of the tractor was taken to The Alfred in a serious condition with a fractured vertebrae.

Mr Rankin said the road was “extremely dangerous” due to its steepness, narrow width, two blind corners, seasonal changing characteristics and the fact it was used by heavy articulated machinery.

“I can recall one two-vehicle collision, a single-vehicle accident, multiple near misses and many a vehicle struggling to get up it, both in the dry and wet,” Mr Rankin said in a letter to Baw Baw Shire Council.

“As a consequence of last Friday’s unfortunate event, we request that [council] immediately gives consideration to the design and construction of a paved road for the first 400-450 metres on Slatters Road.”

Mr Rankin said the first 200 metres of Slatters Road was sealed about 10 years ago, however, that section of sealed road was “deteriorating rapidly” due to poor construction.

Trafalgar Leading Senior Constable Trevor Farmer told The Express the driver of the truck and tractor, a 57-year-old Moe South man was not at fault and that the road surface was dangerous and required sealing urgently.

Leading Senior Constable Farmer said the driver of the truck lost traction when towing his trailer and tractor up Slatters Road on Friday, and was unable to reverse down the hill due to its steepness and blind corners.

He said the driver unloaded the tractor on the unsealed section of road, causing the truck’s rear axle to lift off the road and slide down the hill before the incident involving the tractor took place.

Another Slatters Road resident of 30 years, Di Harrison, said the road required more regular maintenance and the installation of safety rails along the low side of the road, particularly where the incident happened on Friday.

Mr Rankin, who described the road as a “death trap”, said Baw Baw Shire Council had a duty of care to address the concerns of residents promptly.

An email sent to Mr Rankin by Baw Baw Shire councillor Peter Kostos on Tuesday said: “Our CEO … has put an emergency inspection and report on Slatters Road, which combined with the police report, photos and videos will be assessed for intervention.”

In a statement, Baw Baw Shire Council director of community infrastructure Cohen Van der Velde said the organisation would conduct an independent road safety audit on Slatters Road.

“Council will be briefed following the outcome of these investigations with further information – to identify any actions that may be recommended for implementation,” the statement read.