darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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October 31, 2011

The latest Transport Accident Commission (TAC) figures have confirmed that East Gippsland has one of the worst road accident and fatality records in Victoria.

Over the past three years, 23 people have died on East Gippsland’s roads which places our region second behind Greater Geelong which suffered 26 deaths in the same period.

Of course, the numbers never tell the complete story of the heartbreak and tragedy which haunts the families and friends of the victims of road accidents. The social and economic costs of road trauma demand more action from all levels of government and the wider community.

In recent years, there has been some success in reducing the road toll but much of the improvement has occurred in metropolitan areas. The country road toll has remained stubbornly high and has resisted the best efforts of law enforcement measures and campaigns to improve driver behaviour.

On that point, regional newspapers, including this publication, are to be commended for working with the Victorian Government on an initiative to ‘Talk the Toll Down’. It’s an advertising-based strategy which encourages passengers and friends of drivers who are behaving poorly on the roads to remind them about their responsibilities.

The risk of offending a loved one by telling them to drive in a more appropriate manner is a small price to pay compared to saying nothing and watching them become part of the road toll.

But the latest research is also highlighting the fact that these campaigns and enforcement measures need to be backed up by safer vehicles and road infrastructure if we are going to dramatically lower the road toll.

Even responsible people who are driving in a lawful manner will make mistakes and the consequences are more severe in regional areas where higher speeds are usually involved.

That’s where safer vehicles and safer roads can save lives.

As part of my work in Federal Parliament, I regularly meet with lead agencies like the RACV and Monash University Accident Research Centre which develop policies to improve road safety. Both organisations are supportive of a more holistic approach to road safety which takes into account all of the contributing factors.

In East Gippsland, one of the biggest road safety issues remains the condition of the Princes Highway which the RACV says is below the standard that is expected of a major national route.

While the State Government recently announced some welcome funding, the section of highway from Sale to the New South Wales border is currently ineligible for Federal Government funding because it’s not considered to be part of the national network.

It’s a position that needs to change if we are going to secure the amount of money which is required for projects to widen the road; build shoulders along dangerous sections; increase the number of overtaking lanes and improve rest areas.

It will cost a lot of money but what price do we place on a human life? Too many people are dying on East Gippsland’s roads and governments are not spending enough money on road safety to help address the problem.

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