From seatbelts to car safety to booze buses, Victoria has always led the world in road safety. But here’s the bad news: The incredible results we’ve achieved over the last few decades have started to plateau. In fact, as it stands, we’re going backwards.
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It pains me to say that 2015 was the second year in a row where road fatalities actually increased - 252 men, women and children were killed on Victorian roads that year. Another 5000 were injured. The financial cost was around $3 billion. The personal cost we can’t even begin to calculate.
Every two hours, someone is killed or hospitalised after a crash on Victorian roads. Think about it. Every two hours, somewhere in this state, there’s a ring of the phone or a knock at the door that bears the sort of news we all spend our lives dreading. Every two hours, someone’s life is changed.
This has got to stop. We need to start doing things differently. We need a far more aggressive approach to save Victorian lives. That’s why we’re embarking on the single most ambitious road safety strategy in Victoria’s history. It’s a $1 billion plan that sets it sights firmly on one of the biggest killers in our state: country roads.
Half of all road deaths occur in regional Victoria. You are four times more likely to die on a road in the country than a road in Melbourne. If you think about it, it makes sense: higher than average speed limits leave no room for error, longer than average trips mean fatigue is always a factor, and poor lighting, marking and edging only add to the danger.
As part of our action plan, we’re investing $340 million to upgrade 2500 kilometres of country roads – installing state-of-the-art safety features like wire rope barriers, and ‘rubber strips’ along the centre and the edges of the road.
No longer will our approach be limited to just fixing and marking the ‘black spots’ – the nightmare bends and intersections in the country where many crashes occur. Now, we’re focused on getting ahead of the crashes before they occur.
There is no road, no bend and no intersection that we will automatically consider ‘safe’. Everything is under the microscope. And it’s not just about the high-speed roads. Pedestrians make up a huge share of road fatalities. These tragedies are just as likely to happen down at the local shops as anywhere else.
As part of our landmark plan, we’ll build more roundabouts and make local paths and roads even safer for pedestrians – and for cyclists, too. And we’ll crack down on the offenders who put as all at risk. No more second chances for drink drivers.
Under our new plan, if you’re over the limit even once, even “just by a little bit”, you will get an alcohol interlock device fitted on your car – because you put lives in danger. We’re providing 10 new booze buses and expanding roadside drug testing to 100,000 tests a year. And we’ll also trial a brilliant new idea: ‘alco gates’ that won’t let you out of the carpark of a licensed venue if you’re over the limit.
Our plan is also about developing new technology to make cars and driving safer, and helping more young people learn about the dangers of being a bloody idiot behind the wheel – as it if wasn’t obvious enough already.
We have a goal, here. We want to reduce the road toll to under 200 by the year 2020. And make no mistake: we’re going to be aggressive about it. We will do whatever it takes to save families the pain of losing someone they love.
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