More people die on roads

The number of people dying on rural and regional roads has surged by more than 20 per cent in 2017, new data shows.

As of May 15, 59 people died on country roads, 10 more than at the same time in 2016 and higher than the long term average. 

Doug Fryer, Victoria Police assistant commissioner for road policing command, said he was concerned rural motorists felt obliged to drive to the speed limit, even if it wasn't safe.

"I've got a concern that we have many people who travel in the country, that see a 100[km/h] sign and think that they have to travel at 100," he said. "But that's not the case. It is the maximum, not the recommended."

The state government has embarked on a record infrastructure investment in an attempt to reduce  the number of high-speed regional crashes by rolling out centreline and roadside barriers along 20 high risk regional roads. VicRoads says these safety improvements will directly address 85 per cent of road fatalities that occur when drivers cross the centre line or run off the road to the left. 

"If you are a licence-holder in Victoria, statistically, you have four times more likelihood of dying on a country road, than you do on a metro road," Mr Fryer said.

Ballarat highway patrol Acting Senior Sergeant Ben Young said all drivers had to remain aware of their surroundings and drive to the current conditions. 

Statistics show country roads are more dangerous than regional roads and TAC manager road safety Samantha Buckis says mistakes on these roads are more likely to lead to serious or fatal crashes. 

“If a driver makes a mistake on a rural or a regional road the likelihood of that being fatal is much higher (than on city roads) due to speeds and a lack of protection,” Ms Buckis said.

“We know that small increases in speed can lead to poorer outcomes, so it is important we know that while the speed you are travelling at doesn’t always causes the crash it does determine the outcome.” 

VicRoads western Victoria regional director Ewen Nevett said funding to improve safety of regional roads had been doubled this year. 

"The Victorian Government has doubled funding for regional road maintenance and projects, allocating $530 million in the 2017-18 budget,” Mr Nevett said. 

"We are working on a large number of significant road safety improvements across Western Victoria, including the upgrade and duplication of the Western Highway and planning for bypasses around Beaufort, Ararat and Horsham. 

"Our ongoing road maintenance program involves rehabilitation of roads, resealing and waterproofing.”

With The Age