Three basic road treatments - sealed shoulders, roadside barriers and centre-lane wire rope barriers - would protect most drivers from the potentially fatal consequences of their mistakes, a road crash analysis has found.
The Austroads analysis aimed to investigate the feasibility of building "truly safe" roads.
It found "a surprisingly small" number of error types accounted for the bulk of crashes, the most common caused by overcorrection after straying on to an unsealed shoulder.
"Similarly, a relatively small number of treatment types applied in the appropriate location would have protected a large number of drivers who made errors," the report said.
"For example, implementing only three key treatments (sealed shoulders, roadside barriers and centre-lane wire rope barriers) would have provided protection from the consequences of errors in 63 per cent of all the crashes examined."
Centre-line wire rope barriers are used in WA, including parts of Roe Highway and Kwinana, Mitchell and Graham Farmer freeways.
The report said there was also value in considering measures that discouraged errors.
These could include lower speeds, warning signs, audio-tactile line markings and rest areas.
The report said Australian jurisdictions recognised road users were fallible and made mistakes.
"As a result, vehicles and road infrastructure need to be designed to discourage errors and protect against errors when they do occur," it said.
"Thus road infrastructure must be 'forgiving' - in the sense that it should allow for recovery from errors when they occur."
Working with the University of Adelaide's Centre for Automotive Safety Research, Austroads concentrated on crashes on high-speed rural roads for the analysis.
It did not include night crashes which, it says, could have underestimated the impact of reflective materials and lighting on road safety.
'Vehicles and roads need to be designed to discourage errors.'" *Austroads report *