Editorial: Road safety message is still not sinking in

The good news for Victoria to end 2017 is the total road toll is about 12 percent down on last year. That is thirty lives that have not been wasted on our roads.

But before these saved lives is cause for any kind of celebration it is worth recalling the Toward Zero motto that no one deserves to lose their life on the roads. So thirty may have been saved  but there are 255 more who tell a tale of incalculable misery and waste that ensues.So if statistically the figure is slightly below the five year average, the bad news is the figure is still way above the 250 marked which in 2013 marked a new milestone in the downward trending totals that were the culmination of decades of work and education.

Following a disastrous 2016 where Ballarat faced the worst road toll for the region in decades, a shocking four times what it was on a the previous year, these toll statistics  are a slight improvement but these figures again reveal skewed concentrations in place and age.

While 2017 metropolitan deaths have fallen almost 30 percent from 2016, outside the city the stats are not so pretty.  While within regional cities like Ballarat, the figures look better with their own falling totals from 30 deaths in 2016 to 18 last year the statewide picture is worrying. 

Worse still are rural roads which continue to disproportionately contribute to this toll.  Naturally faster speeds and roadside obstacles like animals are the ongoing factors in rural areas  but a 12 percent jump in 2017  taking the deaths from 132 to 152, well over half the whole total, show just how much more work needs to be done. The toll in regional Victoria has been one of the unfortunate constants in every years total road toll as higher speeds, long distances, more obstacles and higher chances of fatigue are all make their deadly contribution.

But  the same old warnings are applicable, the need for greater attention, for breaking the journey  and perhaps most of all an acute understanding that a slightly slower speed that may only add minutes to a journey could save a life.

Engineering advantages like the advent of more road barriers probably mean more lives saved but 2017 was also the year when the highest ranking police countenanced the idea of lowering speeds on roads that cannot be engineered for safety. This and the message of driving to  conditions are definitely ones demanding  further discussion in 2018 if we are to ever get this toll lower.