State governments’ new road safety strategies seem cheap and lack imagination

Ed’s note

Dylan Campbell

HANG ON a second – cars and roads are better than ever, and speed limits, at least in Victoria, are going down? Last month premier Daniel Andrews announced speeds on “narrow, lower-quality, high-speed” country roads would reduce from 100km/h as part of a push to get deaths on Victorian roads to below 200 within four years. Last year it was 252.

Good on them for doing something, none of us wants to see people killed or maimed having ducked down to the shops, on a holiday or just on the way to work. But I don’t know about the pollies’ strategy. For a start, personally I’ve no huge gripe with keeping an eye on urban speed limits, particularly as cyclists increase (yes, I know, but that’s one for another time). But in rural areas? How many of the pollies live in these areas? And once limits have gone down, you can imagine the effort required to get them back up again.

As some of the most astute users of the road system, we could get our brightest minds in a room and ’shop medium- to long-term strategies to reduce road deaths, but that’s pointless for now, as the government’s working to objectives just four years away. Typical.

The pollies say they’ll target problem roads for lowering the limit. Are they also going to spend some money on the road to make it safer? Or get a highway patrol car to run up and down it more often? Surely two things more effective than just lowering the limit.

I even think a well-executed marketing campaign would be good value.

Let’s educate people. It’ll need a change of tack for a start as the local road safety authority TAC puts out some serious dross, and I reject the fear-based principles that seem to guide most of its messaging. If you’re going to cram propaganda down people’s eye sockets, I say use billboards to remind people, in a clever way, that driving is a skill like playing the piano, and that every day everyone should aspire to be better. I don’t think it’ll get the road toll under 200 in four years but it’ll be more effective than just lowering speed limits. How lazy and unimaginative.