Learmonth locals are spearheading a campaign to cut the speed limit on the Sunraysia Highway through their town a month after a horror accident almost claimed the life of a 10-year-old girl.
A car travelling at the signposted 80kmh limit struck Justyce Taylor, 10, on June 21, when her bike hit a wet patch of grass and skidded on to the highway.
The impact left Justyce with two skull fractures, an acquired brain injury, facial palsy, broken shoulder blades, a broken right upper arm, fractured and degloved right hand, two cracked ribs one of which punctured her lung, a lacerated liver, soft tissue damage to her right leg, and road damage to her left leg, foot and heel that may yet need a skin graft.
After almost four weeks at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Justyce returned home to Learmonth last week and two days later her mother Shirlene Laurie decided to campaign for the speed limit to be reduced from 80km/h to 60km/h through town.
“Justyce is doing really well considering the accident, better than anyone expected given the severity of it,” Ms Laurie said.
“Residents for years have said this road is an accident waiting to happen. I don’t want any other family to go through what we’ve been through … getting that phone call and not even knowing for five minutes whether Justyce was alive.”
Ms Laurie has joined with other locals to lobby for the speed reduction, and in less than a week have met with Ballarat federal MP Catherine King and deputy mayor Daniel Moloney.
They will launch a petition and hope to have their issue listed on the agenda at the next City of Ballarat council meeting on August 1.
“We see so many people come through this town that aren’t doing 80km/h through the town centre, we get trucks and everything. Even turning off the highway you wonder whether vehicles behind you will slow or notice you braking,” she said.
When Learmonth Primary School was open, the speed limit was 70km/h but after the school’s closure in 2012 the limit increased to 80km/h.
Local mother Ailsa DuBois agreed it was time to reduce the speed limit.
“Given the near death of young Justyce Laurie recently, some of us feel strongly that we must take a firm and united stand to have the speed limit reduced to 60km/h, for the safety of our many children, adolescents and elderly,” she said.
“I’m a mother of a teenage daughter and we know personally of at least 21 other school-aged children in Learmonth who ride their bikes or do things adjacent to the road. I have worried for many years about the possibility that something could go wrong and something bad could happen.
“I just think our little village deserves the basic respect of having a reasonable 60km/h speed limit,” Ms DuBois said.
City of Ballarat director of infrastructure and environment Terry Demeo said although the Sunraysia Highway through Learmonth was controlled by Vic Roads, council would help advocate on behalf of the community for reduced speed limits to help improve road safety.
VicRoads western Victoria regional director Mal Kersting said VicRoads would work with Learmonth residents.
“Safety is always our first priority and we’ll work with the Learmonth community to see whether further improvements are needed on this section,” he said.
“Speed limits are set to strike the right balance between safety and traffic flow, including factors such as crash history, road user types and the number of access points along the route.”