Duplicate road name dilemma

The revised ASNZS4819:2011 will emphasize that road names should not be duplicated in the same or nearby localities. In this post I explain some of the problems in cases where not only are there  two different roads with the same name, but both also intersect another road in twoi different locations.

The 000 emergency call-takers in Victoria will always ask the name of the nearest cross-road as a check to ensure that they have the right road segment. The nearest cross-road information means an emergency vehicle can be dispatched quickly in the correct direction of the incident, even if, as often happens, the exact street number isn’t known. Most Computer Aided Dispatch Systems will use the intersection of two roads to calculate the distance, assign the best and nearest unit to dispatch and also as a base point to give radio or text instructions to drivers.

You’d always expect that a combined road name and cross-street name combination is a unique point on the map, at least within the region, particularly within the same locality. Two different isolated roads with the same name remove an important safeguard and violate uniqueness assumptions for verifying location . This can create confusion and may require redirection and time delays to get to the correct intersection.

Take as an example the following intersections on Commercial Rd, Morwell, Victoria:

Commercial Road, Morwell & Hazelwood Road, Morwell


Commercial Road, Morwell &Hazelwood Drive, Morwell

Example of Duplicate Road name in the same locality (Hazelwood Rd and Hazelwood Drive, Morwell) with additional complication that both also intersect with Commercial road, creating duplicate intersections.

It is not unusual for people calling for emergency assistance to  confuse the road type, telling the operator,  “…yeah, its near… Commercial Road and I think its Hazelwood Street…”.  This would still be reconcilable in circumstances where the road name ‘Hazelwood’ was unique, because there would only be one possibility of a matching intersection of Commercial & Hazelwood. However, with two isolated roads, the operator may have trouble pinning down the right intersection and send the emergency dispatch to the wrong location.

Here is another example of a situation I heard of some years back, with slight variation in the name.

Intersections of…

A Rintoules Road  & Western Highway, Nhill
Rintoule Street, Nhill & Western Highway, Nhill

The emergency caller said  “…we’re off the road near… the corner of the Western Highway and Rintoule’s Road…”  The caller may have omitted the ‘A’, or perhaps it was not heard. Either way, it caused a mismatch and the wrong intersection being selected. Both roads intersect the Western Highway, but 8-10 km+ apart, depending on which approach.  That is about 13 minutes, a significant time loss to get to the correct intersection.  In this specific case, local crew were aware of the other road and there was little delay.  The point is that we can not always count on this level of detailed local knowledge, and would not need to if the road names are uniquely named.  This example highlights the need not only for the uniqueness of road name, but also explains why road names with a <first name initial> and <surname> combination are a hazard to identifying locations, especially in country areas where these similar road names are often tributaries of the same major road.  The 2010 Victorian naming guidelines do not allow the use of initials in road names.

Although the AS/NZS 4819 Rural and Urban Address Standard is targeted at new addressing,  as this example shows there are some legacy issues where renaming one of the duplicate roads would benefit public safety and mitigate an identifiable risk. This is also a good example of why duplicate names must not be allowed to occur in any future road naming throughout the state.

Note:  There is another scenario where one road loops back and recrosses a second road: This can also be a problem, depending on the distances involved, but for short distances may not always be of great concern, because an emergency vehicle  dispatched to the wrong intersection is at least on the right road (albeit on the wrong section) and have a better chance of finding their way to the ‘other’ intersection.

Nonetheless, road naming should always be considered in the context of the geography.  In some responses, every second saved can contribute to the likely beneficial outcome for the patient! And logical road naming can assist in preventing delays.

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About yvonnert

Extensive experience working in government spatial data infrastructure. Over ten years as a bridge maker in emergency services, with strong partnering skills providing leadership for spatial information strategy.

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  1. Another Speaker for GeoRabble… | mygeoplace - October 25, 2011

    […] blocked-roads across Victoria.  This is a relative of of the topics I have posted on here before: Duplicate Road names but involving the special case of a road that has the same name but does not physically continue […]

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