Victoria’s state government has supported a move by councils to reduce speed limits by up to 20km/h in an effort to curb a drastically rising road toll.
The first council to slash speed limits is the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, with 38 roads that are marked as 100km/h or 90km/h zones being reduced to 80km/h as part of a two-year trial.
The shire leads the Victorian road toll, according to The Age, with 14 deaths so far this year. The trial will only apply to what the council has deemed “high-risk sealed rural road”, not main arterial roads.
Victoria’s road toll is skyrocketing, with 250 deaths so far this year, compared with 198 for the same period last year – an increase of 26.3 percent.
Of the 265 deaths on Victorian roads that have occurred in the past 12 months, 144 have been in rural areas and 121 in Melbourne.
The most common crash type is described as ‘run off a straight road’, accounting for 60 deaths in the past 12 months. The TAC does not provide statistics for whether speed is a factor.
Victoria’s state road minister, Jaala Pulford, told The Age that the Government would consider similar proposals to reduce speed limits from other councils.
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“Our view is that these things need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis and the Mornington Peninsula case that they put to us was very powerful,” she said.
“If other councils similarly want to put a case about what they think is best for their community, then we will take them seriously. We will look at them carefully.”
The policy has been labelled by some as lazy, with the opposition rural roads spokeswoman Roma Britnell telling The Age that the focus should be on investing in road maintenance rather than lowering speed limits.
“They’ve made the wrong decision with the Mornington Peninsula,” Ms Britnell said. “This lowering of speed limits is lazy policy.”
The RACV has strongly supported the trial but qualified any ongoing changes, with a spokesperson saying: “Any speed reduction needs to be on a case-by-case basis and show the value of making this change in terms of road safety.”
The City of Greater Geelong has reportedly submitted a list of more than 20 roads for VicRoads to consider for speed limits reductions. Eleven people have died on Greater Geelong roads this year.
The City of Greater Bendigo has applied to have the speed limit on one road reduced.