December 20, 2009
The release of the latest accident statistics have confirmed the Princes Highway east of Melbourne as the state’s riskiest highway and supported calls by The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester for additional funding.
Mr Chester has campaigned throughout the year for increased funding to be directed at improving the safety of theroad environment and he described the latest crash data as ‘further proof’ of the worrying trend.
From April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2009, there were 314 crashes reported on the Princes Highway east with 497 people injured and 28 people killed. During the same period, every other major highway in Victoria reported less than 220 crashes with the Princes Highway in western Victoria recording 134 crashes and19 fatalities.
“Statistics don’t tell the full story of the trauma and grief associated with every accident,” Mr Chester said.
“The Princes Highway east of Melbourne has the worst accident rate in Victoria and I’ve been urging the State and Federal Governments to allocate additional funding to improve the road.
“The duplication works near Melbourne have made a huge difference but once you travel east of Traralgon, the condition of the road deteriorates with every kilometre.
“The surface is uneven, there is a lack of overtaking lanes, the rest areas are almost non-existent and in some sections, the lack of shoulders on the roadside makes travelling a nightmare for large vehicles or people towing boats and caravans.”
Mr Chester said the RACV had repeatedly called on the Labor Government to spend more money on country roads.
“If you fix country roads, you will save country lives,” Mr Chester said.
“Several reports have found that improving the safety of the road environment is a proven measure to reduce the road toll. While the overall Victorian road toll has dropped in recent years, a disproportionate number of fatalities continue to occur in regional areas.”
Mr Chester said he was not surprised that Princes Highway east had recorded the worst accident statistics because the RACV had already warned the government that most of the highway was not up to standard.
“Under its star rating system, the RACV assessment of highways in Gippsland found that most sections of road were an unacceptable standard for a national highway,” Mr Chester said.
“There are plans to duplicate some sections of the highway from Traralgon to Sale but the eastern section is being patched up rather than receiving a major upgrade.
“At this stage, the Federal Government has refused to even consider my requests to upgrade the status of the road to a ‘Road of National Importance’ to allow extra funds to be allocated.
“Driver behaviour, education campaigns and police blitzes are all important road safety initiatives but we must have a safer road environment and the Princes Highway in eastern Victoria is not up to standard.
“I urge all motorists to take care on our roads this summer.”