Is it time to re-evaluate the speed limits on Australian highways? Apparently, a lot of people seem to think so. While speed is the number one cause of road fatalities in Australia, there is evidence that increasing the speed limit would not automatically result in an increase in speeding and road accidents. Changes to speed limits will always be met with some resistance, as does any major change that affects the daily lives of concerned citizens; but after looking at the numbers, it may be time to consider these changes.
This evidence comes from a recent derestricted speed limit trial that has been in action on several Northern Territory highways. This trial currently runs along a 200 kilometer portion of the Stuart Highway and has been in place for seven months, without a single fatality or even any serious injuries. The trial was planned to extend for 12 months; though, the Northern Territory government may be thinking about extending it.
In 2006, the former Territory Labor Government abolished open speed limits and set a maximum speed limit of 130km/h. Over a six year period after the limits were put in place, there were 307 fatalities, compared to 292 fatalities during the previous six years.
Throughout the rest of Australia, current restrictions place the speed limit at either 100km/h or 110km/h. These limits were put in place 40 years ago, during a time when the road infrastructure was in much worse condition. Additionally, many of the safety features that have become standard in vehicles of today were either not in place yet or just starting out, such as anti-lock brakes and airbags.
Many safety experts have been calling for an increase in speed limits to 130km/h on major highways. One of the points made by safety experts is that this increase could lead to less driver fatigue on the highway. Along NSW highways, fatigue was responsible for 24 percent of vehicle fatalities between 2008 and 2017.
Even though these numbers point to the possibility of increases in the speed limits on highways, more research may be needed. Whenever the safety and lives of the general public is question, it makes sense to gather all the possible facts; but a recent poll of 24,000 motorists by Fairfax Media showed that 90 percent are in favour of an increase in speed limits.
While the majority of people believe in a change in highway speed limits, do not expect changes to occur too soon. As with most changes, you could expect a slow roll out that could take a year or more to put into effect, if the governments agree with an increase.
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