The safety of all motorists on Austria’s motorways and expressways has the highest priority for ASFINAG. This is why, every year, the company invests every second euro from the investment programme in improving road safety. This includes building second tunnel tubes and modern service stations as well as technical innovations. Regular information campaigns by ASFINAG aim to achieve a sustainable change of awareness and more personal responsibility. Road safety is the product of teamwork of the infrastructure manager, the people behind the wheel and the car industry.
30 large-scale tunnel projects for more safety
Austria’s motorway tunnels are some of the safest in Europe. As part of the ongoing tunnel safety offensive, in 2017 the company invested more than EUR 300 million in the construction of additional second tubes and in the modernisation of existing tunnels.
A highlight was the completion of the safety upgrade of the Arlberg tunnel on the S 16 Arlberg expressway. The longest road tunnel in Austria, at 14 kilometres, was equipped with 37 additional escape routes and another eight breakdown bays. In addition, the tunnel now has state-of-the-art safety features such as a fire-fighting sprinkler system, a thermal scanner that detects and stops overheated trucks in front of the tunnel, along with the “AKUT” acoustic early warning system.
Additional hotspots in 2017 were on the A 9 Pyhrn motorway: In southern Upper Austria, the new second tubes for the tunnel chain near Klaus (four tunnels) were opened to traffic. In Styria, the new tube for the eight kilometre-long Gleinalm tunnel was completed.
In Vienna, the Stadlau and Hirschstetten tunnels on the A 23 Südosttangente were modernised in particularly intensive night-time work. Another focus in terms of new safety technology was on numerous tunnels along the A 2 South motorway in Carinthia between Klagenfurt and the so-called “Packabschnitt”.
International interest in the AKUT “tunnel ears”
In addition to video cameras and special sensors, ASFINAG has been relying on the unique acoustic tunnel monitoring system “AKUT” since 2014. Almost half of the 56 ASFINAG tunnels in which “AKUT” is to be installed are now equipped with this system. Microphones automatically detect atypical sounds such as an impact, screeching tyres, and human voices and quickly raise the alarm. Fire and rescue can be alerted up to two minutes faster.
The security system is already attracting great international interest. As the first highway operator outside Austria, Highways England decided in 2017 to install “AKUT” in the Southwick tunnel in southern England. Negotiations with interested parties from Sweden, Denmark and China are also under way.
“AKUT”, jointly developed by Joanneum Research and ASFINAG for series production, is also constantly being improved. Under certain conditions, it is now also possible to “scan” a tunnel to find those in need of help.
The international interest in our system is of course very gratifying and was only a matter of time. After all, the time factor plays an even greater role in accidents in a tunnel: When it comes down to it, every second counts. “AKUT” ensures a huge improvement in traffic safety through the rapid alerting of rescue teams.
Against “black sheep”: heavy traffic under the magnifying glass
Spot checks on trucks bring more road safety to everyone. In 2017, ASFINAG, in close cooperation with the police, carried out weight checks in addition to the now established so-called technical roadside inspections in the case of special heavy transports. As part of these checks, 2,503 vehicles with serious deficiencies or dangers, 79 special transports with excess weight and 178 overloaded trucks were discovered and sanctioned. 2017 result: There is still no noticeable improvement in the condition of many vehicles in heavy goods traffic. This means that intensive inspections remain indispensable.
The results of our inspections have shown that there are still many dangerous vehicles on the ASFINAG network. Therefore, it is important that we continue to enforce these reviews in order to improve road safety.
Rested drivers are safe drivers: sustainable expansion of the truck parking spaces
Sufficient and well-developed truck parking spaces are an indispensable service so that the drivers can also comply with the obligatory rest periods. In 2017, the focus in regards to increasing the number of parking spaces for heavy traffic was on the important A 1 West motorway, A 2 South motorway and Brenner route. An additional 216 truck parking spaces were added to the service stations and rest areas. In addition, 15 previously closed parking lots have been reopened, increasing truck parking to a total of more than 7,100 vehicles.
With the expansion and extension concept for truck parking spaces, ASFINAG is making a significant contribution to safety in the network. Only well-rested drivers are safe drivers. Therefore, rest areas such as Allhaming and Hainbach will also be upgraded on the A 1 West motorway.
More safety on construction sites with average speed checks
Although they are becoming ever safer, construction sites with unfamiliar routings still unsettle drivers. Top concentration and speed discipline are also indispensable for the safety of the workers. For years, ASFINAG has relied on average speed check systems to ensure that tunnels in which accidents may have particularly serious consequences are protected. These measure the average speed along the corresponding stretch. Success shows that ASFINAG is right. In areas monitored in this way, motorists drive in a much more disciplined manner than is the case with spot speed checks.
EUR 120 million for more traffic safety on the A 8 Innkreis motorway
A crucial project for more traffic safety for around 35,000 drivers a day was completed in 2017 in Upper Austria. The twelve kilometre-long section on the A 8 Innkreis motorway between Haag and Ried was the last section to receive a full-fledged hard shoulder. The stretch was widened from 24 to 30 metres and completely renovated. This completes the multi-year expansion of the A 8. Overall, ASFINAG has invested EUR 120 million in the 30-kilometre expansion of the stretch from Pichl bei Wels to Ried im Innkreis (work began in 2008).
In-depth safety checks: the “quality sticker” for the road
Since 2011, ASFINAG has been carrying out in-depth road safety inspections (RSI) on the entire motorway and expressway network every year. In the course of these checks, everything is scrutinised: from quickly remediable deficiencies, such as weathered ground markings, to far-reaching measures, such as the entire redesign of a road section. The accident events of the past five years are also used to identify and assess deficiencies (low / medium / high priority). For example, an increased number of rainfall accidents could indicate a problem with road drainage.
The checks are carried out by independent, certified road safety experts, i.e. experts with specialist training and professional experience. In 2017, a total of around 239 kilometres of the ASFINAG network was subjected to an RSI.
Within ten years, the entire ASFINAG network will be reviewed in sections by external experts. The RSI means that every section of the route will receive a regular ‘quality sticker’.
New traffic safety initiative “Hello Life!”
With the new multi-year initiative “Hello Life!” (say hello to life) launched in 2017, the organisation is calling for safe coexistence and more responsibility behind the wheel. The target group are not notorious speeders, but all those who often misbehave behind the wheel against their better judgement. The topics ranged from speed, distance and fatigue in 2017 to the ever increasing problem of distraction (keyword: smartphone). The message: do not take any risks for yourself or others.
With success – as the measurement of impact has shown. Before, almost every second driver thought that they were better at driving a car than the others. Afterwards, those who heard or saw the “Hello Life!” campaign on the radio, television, internet and in newspapers, were more critical of their driving skills.
Only 28 percent remained intractable. 44 percent of respondents said that they now pay more attention to the speed limit, compared to just 38 percent before. 41 percent of respondents take breaks more often, before “Hello Life!” it was less than a third. There was a big improvement in particular in the matter of maintaining distance, one of the main causes of serious accidents. Only 20 percent of motorists paid attention to maintaining sufficient distance away from the vehicle in front before “Hello Life!” This increased to 35 percent afterwards.
The results show that our awareness-raising campaigns and the new initiative are changing driving habits, with many people rethinking and paying more attention to safe driving. However, this should not be a one-time effect, but a lasting one. Traffic safety is therefore an important focus for us in communication.