A short while back I pulled up to assist at a head-on collision on the Peninsular Development Road, just South of Coen, on Cape York. The collision was between two 4wdrives, one a 60 series Toyota, and the other a Discovery. The collision had occurred in heavy dust and limited visibility in the height of the tourist season and there were quite a few injuries, with one driver being airlifted to the Cairns Base Hospital by the rescue helicopter.
When we first pulled up to assist, I found a long-handled shovel in the middle of the road, about a hundred meters from the accident. Thinking nothing of it, I moved it out of the way and off to the side of the road. Anyway, once things had eventually been managed and people all taken care of and the tow trucks were moving in, I happened to be chatting with one of the passengers from the 60 series and noticed they had shovel mounts on the roof rack, but no shovel.
When I pointed out the shovel down the road, it became apparent that it had come from their vehicle, most likely at about 90kph, when the vehicles had collided head-on in the dust. The shovel had effectively become a sharp missile that had the potential to kill or maim anyone in the way. A quick look at the shovel-holders found that they secured the shovel by a screw down type of clamp which had not had been tightened to a point where it had sufficient pressure to retain the shovel during the impact.
A quick google search for images of shovel holders will help explain my point. Image 1 is the type of clamp on my own vehicle, similar to the one on the 60 series, but not exactly the same. Made by RhinoRack and does a good job.
Image two is a different type, but shows how the shovel has been safely inserted with the shovel head to the rear. In the case of an accident, the shovel could still slide forward, but the shovel head would be stopped by the clamps.
Now take a look at this image. Image three shows the shovel has been inserted with the head at the front of the vehicle, which is how it had been mounted by whoever packed it on the 60 series.
These sorts of holders are pretty common in Australia and there is nothing wrong with the design, however, caution, or common sense dictates that the user should insert the shovel so it can’t fly out forward in an accident.
The above accident scenario could have easily become a fatality investigation but for one thing – by luck or design, the owner of the 60 series Toyota had mounted the shovel on the passenger side of the vehicle and not the driver’s side. That shovel traveled a hundred meters down the road instead of potentially straight into the oncoming Discovery’s windscreen.