LOWER speed limits on the Mornington Peninsula are here to stay, with the council planning to apply for state government approval for trial speed limits on some shire-managed rural roads to become permanent.
In December 2019 Mornington Peninsula Shire started a two-year safer speeds trial which lowered the speeds of 33 100kph and 90kph high-risk roads to 80 km/h.
The trial resulted from the high rate of road trauma on the peninsula. In 2019 the shire recorded the second most deaths of any Victorian municipality, behind the large regional city of Greater Geelong.
By the end of 2019, more than 200 people had sustained serious injuries and 12 people had died on peninsula roads – a large increase from the two lives lost in 2018.
On the roads included in the safer speeds trial, 32 people have been killed and more than 280 people severely injured in the past 20 years, with a further 487 people severely injured. Six deaths occurred in 2019.
An officer’s report to council stated that extensive road safety research in Australia and overseas showed that a relatively small reduction in average vehicle speeds results in a disproportionally large decrease in road safety risk and road trauma. By travelling 10kph slower on high-speed roads, the risk of being killed or seriously injured in a crash reduces by an estimated 40 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively.
The report also noted that obtaining a similar outcome by improving road infrastructure through widening roads and installing safety barriers was a more expensive option “well beyond the available shire budgets for road upgrades” that would also require the removal of thousands of trees.
All speed limit changes, even on shire-managed roads, require the approval of the Department of Transport.
At the 22 November council meeting, councillors voted to apply to the DoT to keep the 80kph speed limits for the 33 roads in the trial, to refer its Towards Zero 2020-2025 road safety strategy to the new citizens panel to report back to council, and to review unsealed road speed limits where END 80 signs apply.
Cr Despi O’Connor said speed limits were the council’s “leverage we have to protect lives”.
Cr Susan Bissinger said there were other in factors involved in road trauma, such as driver complacency.
Some of the 33 roads include Bungower, Eramosa East and West, Tubbarubba, Stumpy Gully, Merricks Beach and Point Leo.