Having driven the Eyre and Lincoln Highways earlier this month it is extremely sad to read about the two fatal crashes on this stretch of road in the past fortnight. My heart goes out to all the family and friends of those involved in the accidents. I cannot begin to imagine the pain they are feeling.
South Australia has had a horror run with serious crashes causing death on our roads in the past two months.
As the Shadow Road Safety Minister I have spoken to a number of experts in this field and discussed the value of road shoulders and audible tactile line markings, especially on roads that have cars travelling at high speeds. Given the importance placed on these road safety measures it was alarming to witness the lack of road shoulders and audible tactile line markings on the road from Pt Augusta to Pt Lincoln.
In 1997, K.W. Ogden suggested that a 43% saving in casualty accidents could be achieved by adding shoulders to South Australia’s roads. A CASR report in 2010 revealed that unsealed road shoulders was a factor in the majority (70% of studied cases) of non-intersection crashes.
There are a number of benefits associated with shoulder sealing, such as:
Reducing up to 40% of head-on crashes and run-off road crashes; allowing cyclists more reliable width to travel outside the traffic lane; and enabling left turning traffic to use the sealed shoulder, which may assist in reducing delays for through traffic. Other states, such as Western Australia, have prioritised widening and sealing road shoulders on rural roads, as well as the installation of audible tactile line markings to improve road safety.
Given the alarmingly high road toll last year (108 deaths) and the poor start South Australia has made in 2015 (13 deaths), I have written to the Minister for Road Safety, Tony Piccolo MP, asking for a briefing on all the programs outlined in the Government's Community Road Safety Fund to ensure South Australians are getting full value from the money that is being invested in this program. It is not unreasonable to ask the State Government to be transparent in this policy area.
A measure of road safety across all Australian states is calculated as a ratio of deaths per 100,000 of population. In 2014, New South Wales returned a ratio of 4.11, Victoria was 4.26. Sadly South Australia had a ratio of 6.35 in 2014, up from 5.87 in 2013. This is despite the State Labor Government setting a target to reduce this ratio to 5.6 by 2010.
As a state we need to keep working to bring these numbers down. Perhaps the figures above indicate that it is the wrong time for the Government to be disassembling the Motor Accident Commission (MAC).
As I travelled across South Australia’s West Coast I also noted a distinct lack of overtaking lanes along the Eyre and Lincoln Highways. Road safety experts have differing views on the value of overtaking lanes from a safety perspective but from a drivers view point I find them very beneficial and knowing they are coming up takes the pressure off crossing to the wrong side of the road to pass a slower vehicle – particularly on a long drive.
Despite the lack of key safety features on this road it doesn’t even appear in the RAA’s top 10 “Risky Roads”. So with that in mind I look forward to hearing what Minister Piccolo has to say about road shoulders, audible tactile line marking and over taking lanes as well as the state of other roads across South Australia. I will make sure every reasonable measure is being taken to stop our rising road toll.