Taking its toll

The State Government’s aim to cut SA’s road toll by over 30% is commendable.
Each year too many lives are lost or shattered by serious injuries in crashes on our roads – many of which are preventable.
But while reducing this toll is a worthy aim, the Government’s strategy for achieving it is not broad enough.
It argues cutting the speed limit on rural roads, within a 100km radius of Adelaide and on the Yorke Peninsula, from 110kmh to 100kmh could prevent up to 11 casualty crashes a year.
On average, there have been 55 such crashes a year on those roads over the past five years. While groups including the Adelaide Hills Community Road Safety Group and the RAA concede speed does play a role in serious crashes, they are quick to point out that it is only one of a number of factors at play.
Road conditions – including maintenance – and adequate signage to warn of hazards for visiting or inexperienced drivers are also essential.
A driver who takes a corner too fast could be in serious trouble if they lose control on a gravel road verge.
But widening roads and sealing edges, something the Government has embraced, has been proven to cut the risk of crashes.
Unfortunately the Government has not extended its road improvement efforts to fixing dangerous “hot spots” identified by local communities.
Adelaide Hills Community Road Safety Group chairman Andrew Stratford said his group had sent a list of several such hazards to the Government, but was still waiting on action.
Lowering speed limits and raising speeding fines are easy options for the Government that will no doubt have some impact on curbing crashes.
But they should not be the main focus of a concerted road safety strategy.
Instead they should go hand in hand with a commitment of increased funding for road works to improve conditions for motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.
Local council budgets often do not extend to such projects and the Government must take the lead in helping to ensure problem roads, especially those under its control, are fixed.
Motorists must also take responsibility for their actions.
SA Police figures show that last year 36% of those who died in crashes were not wearing seatbelts, 27% of motorists killed had a blood alcohol level over 0.05 and 21% tested positive to drugs.
One only needs to take a peak hour drive along the freeway to see regular displays of idiotic driving behavior that put other road users at risk.
Perhaps shifting police patrols from 50kmh streets to roads with a history of serious crashes and dangerous driving would help curb these problems.