FOUR people have died so far this year on peninsula roads, but no deaths have been recorded on the 33 roads where speed limits have been set at 80kph.
The speed cuts from 100kph and 90kph to 80kph were introduced in December 2019 on about 110 kilometres of selected Mornington Peninsula Shire-managed roads as part of a two-year trial.
Now, half way into the trial, results of an online and phone survey into public acceptance of reducing speeds shows 59 per cent of the 1059 respondents in support and 21 per cent against. A further seven 7 per cent were strongly opposed to the speed trial while 20 per cent were neutral.
In 2020, a year where COVID-19 saw road use drop, the peninsula recorded nine deaths; in 2019 there were 12 road fatalities.
Many of the 33 “high risk sealed rural roads” chosen for the trial had a significant history of road deaths and injuries, and high crash risk rating when speed limits of 100kph and 90kph applied.
National and international research has shown that a relatively small reduction in average vehicle speeds leads to a large decrease in road trauma.
Councillors have been told that setting 80kph speed limits on high risk rural roads, deaths and serious injuries are expected to drop by 30 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.
The speed trial is part of a five-year strategy aimed at eliminating road deaths on the peninsula, with safer roads, safer vehicles, safer speeds and safer drivers (“Strategy to end deaths on peninsula roads” The News 29/6/20).
It also comes at a time when the RACV is compiling a list of the Mornington Peninsula’s most dangerous roads so it can lobby governments at all levels to make roads safer and look at lowering speed limits to match conditions (“Defining ‘danger’ roads” The News 15/3/21). The trial was established to analyse quantitative and qualitative information about crash statistics, vehicle speeds, and the community’s views.
The interim survey also shows 66 per cent of respondents agree that lower speed limits reduce road trauma (16 per cent disagree), although only 51 per cent wanted the trial to be permanent; 89 per cent believe a safe journey is more important than a quick journey (2 per cent disagree); 64 per cent agree their chances of being involved in a crash on sealed rural roads is much higher at 100kph than 80kph (21 per cent disagree; and 57 per cent agreed that reduced speed limits would lead to fewer road crashes (24 per cent disagree).
The survey, made between early November and early December 2020, also showed more people believed the lower speed limits were appropriate (26 per cent disagreed) and 50 per cent agreed they felt safer with the lower speeds (30 per cent disagreed).
The state Department of Transport is evaluating the trial and data collection will continue until the end of the trial, with results reported in early 2022.
The mayor Cr Despi O’Connor said the “pioneering trial” followed statistics that the peninsula as being Victoria’s “second worst municipality for road trauma for that year, including six deaths on the 33 Safer Speeds roads alone”.
“Since the implementation of the 80kph speed limits, there have not been any fatalities involving these roads. While we await the results of the evaluation of the impact of the speed limits on fatalities and serious injuries, it is a very pleasing start to the trial,” Cr O’Connor said.
“What we also find pleasing is the positive community sentiment towards the trial, particularly with almost three times as many people supporting the initiative as opposing it.
“It debunks the perception that matching appropriate speed limits to the road environment would be viewed negatively by the broader community.”
First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 11 May 2021