In Geelong, where 11 people have died so far this year, the City of Greater Geelong has put forward 20 roads to be considered for reduced speed limits, and more councils are expected to follow.
RACV believes the results of the trial could influence future traffic management initiatives across the state.
Peter Kartsidimas, senior manager transport, planning and infrastructure, says RACV will closely monitor the safer speeds trial, which only affects high-risk sealed rural roads, not arterial roads.
“We need to ensure that speed limits are appropriate for the road conditions,” Peter says.
He dismisses fears speed reductions on the peninsula roads will cause delays for drivers. “The stretches of roads involved in this trial are not long ones, so there will be minimal impact to travel times for motorists on the Mornington Peninsula,” he says.
“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.”
RACV senior engineer roads and traffic Emily McLean says the organisation supports the Mornington Peninsula project as part of its road-safety initiatives.
She says that half the deaths so far this year on the peninsula have occurred on roads that have been selected for speed-limit reductions.
She says historically the Department of Transport (formerly VicRoads) set a default speed limit of 100kmh in non-built-up areas.
“Which is why many of our regional roads have traditionally been set at 100kmh,” she says. “However, this does not sufficiently take into account the safety of the road or the ability to drive at that speed.”
She says the department’s speed-zone guidelines allow for lower limits than 100kmh on regional roads, “however it’s not typically being applied”.
Reducing speed limits improves safety in several ways, she says. “Reducing the speed limit provides a better reaction/stopping time if something happens, and also reduces the impact speed of any crash which ultimately improves the severity of any injuries,” Emily says.
“A reduction in the speed being travelled from 100kmh to 90kmh can reduce the risk of a crash by 20 to 30 per cent.
“Speed is not always the cause of a crash, but the speed a vehicle is travelling at the point of impact will always affect how severely people are injured.”
Emily says the road toll is commonly measured by the number of fatalities, but this ignores the true impact and cost of road accidents.
“For every person killed on our roads another 30 are hospitalised and some suffer long-term, life-changing injuries,” she says. “On average, 260 people die due to road trauma each year in Victoria and another 6700 are seriously injured at a cost of $3 to $4 billion to the economy.
“We’ve come a long way since 1970 when 1061 people lost their lives on Victorian roads.
“Since this time the number of people and vehicles on our roads has increased, but changes to roads, laws, community attitudes and vehicle design have seen deaths dramatically reduced.”
Emily says that ideally all roads should be upgraded rather than reducing speed limits. However, there are currently 183,000 kilometres of roads in Victoria that have speed limits of 100kmh or more. As such, RACV believes it is important that government prioritises upgrading important high-traffic routes.