Family counting the cost of pothole pain

Road rage: Andrew and Annmaree Freeman, with daughter Deliliah, 11 months, fear for their lives on the region's roads. Picture: Amy Paton

Road rage: Andrew and Annmaree Freeman, with daughter Deliliah, 11 months, fear for their lives on the region's roads. Picture: Amy Paton

Allansford’s Andrew Freeman fears the region’s crumbling roads are a tragic crash waiting to happen. 

He and his family had a terrifying experience after hitting a divot, aquaplaning and crashing into a ditch. Mr Freeman, his wife Annmaree and 11-month-old daughter escaped injury – but he worries others may not be so lucky. 

“Does it take someone dying to actually get something done about it?” Mr Freeman said of the condition of south-west roads.

“On these roads, you’re taking a gamble with your life... I don’t feel safe.”

Mr Freeman says the region’s roads are the worst he has seen and he now worries for his and his family’s safety every time he gets back behind the wheel.

The family was returning from a car show in Ballarat along the Camperdown-Lismore Road when the crash happened.

Mr Freeman said he was travelling at 80km/h, as advised by the rough surface signs, when he caught up with two cars travelling between 60km/h and 70km/h. 

“After pulling out to overtake I’ve hit a divot in the road, one of those ones you don’t really see with the water on the road and the glaze,” he said.

“As I’ve hit it the car has bounced down and come back up and as its come back down its aquaplaned across the top of the water and actually slid out.”

The family’s 2006 WL HSV Grange, worth $90,000 when it was bought, careered towards the car it was meant to be overtaking, before spinning and going backwards down a ditch.

“Everything inside the car felt like it was happening in slo-mo... I can just remember Deliliah and Annmaree screaming.”

The crash has left the Freemans shaken, and with an almost-$8500 repair bill they cannot afford to pay.

 A compensation claim with VicRoads has been unsuccessful. 

“They’ve turned around and denied the claim saying the road is up to their standards and the community’s standards,” Mr Freeman said.

“They have rough surface signs and speed advisory signs there – what they’re saying is these roads are so rough that we advise you to do 80km/h because it is dangerous – but they won’t admit that they’re unsafe.”

Mr Freeman said drivers were abiding by regulations, while government was not holding up its end of the bargain.

“I should be able to travel on any road and actually feel safe about it,” he said.

“Why is it that my car has to be roadworthy when the road is not even car-worthy? If we have to uphold our end of the bargain and keep our cars to their standards than they should keep their roads to our standards so we’re not constantly replacing parts of our car.”

Mr Freeman, a former truck driver, said the region’s roads were in a “shocking” condition.

“The roads are terrific in Melbourne, they are meticulously maintained,” he said. 

“They are spending money to save people time on travelling to work so they can cut an hour out of their day getting to work, instead of spending the money down here where we are trying to actually get to work alive. Down here it’s like, will I even make it to work without dying?

“Why should I feel like I’m in danger of crashing or have to go really slow just because the roads aren’t up to standard?”

VicRoads regional director Mark Koliba said the organisation was constantly monitoring the road network to ensure it was safe.

He blamed above-average rainfall for damage to roads across the south-west. “Much of the damage caused can’t be prevented by routine maintenance,” he said.   

“Our maintenance crews carried out temporary patching works on Camperdown-Lismore Road in early November. Advisory speed signs are currently in place, encouraging drivers to slow down and be aware of the conditions.”

Mr Koliba said resurfacing 13 kilometres of Camperdown-Lismore Road were scheduled to start over summer. 

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