Speed Limits | SPEECH


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 12:04 :37 ): I very strongly support the member for Hammond’s motion. I will not read out all of it, but the intent of the motion is made very clear in paragraph (a):

(a) opposes mandatory maximum speed limit reductions on country roads when there is no safety-based evidence to support the change;

We on this side—and I know members on the other side—support road safety. We want fewer serious accidents and fewer deaths on our state’s roads, whether they be city or country roads, but the government is not going about it the right way. To just have blanket reductions across gigantic swathes of regional South Australia is not the way to address this very serious problem.

The police have told us for several years now (and they are right) that there are five key issues that contribute to serious issues and fatalities on our roads: fatigue; not wearing seatbelts; drugs and alcohol; inattention; and the fifth one is speeding.

The Hon. T.R. Kenyon: Speed, not speeding.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: Speeding, not speed limits, speeding—breaking the speed limit. That is the key issue that really has been missed here.

I could nominate roads where I think there is a good case to be made to reduce the speed limit in my electorate, and I could nominate roads where I think there is a case to increase the speed limit in my electorate. That is the way to go about it, not just to have a blanket ban, not just to say that we are looking at this whole big chunk of geography and we are going to reduce all the speed limits there.

The last time the government actually put out a list of the roads on which they were considering reducing the speed limit, when I went through that list the vast majority of those roads had not had a serious accident or fatality on them in the previous five years. That is a vexed issue, I accept that. You do not want to wait for a tragedy to implement the solution, but you also do not want to penalise people with over-restrictive solutions in situations where those tragedies may or may not happen.

This is an area of extremely serious personal responsibility. Whether a person is driving themselves in their own car, driving their family or driving on certain roads today, or driving a quad road train, the person in charge of the vehicle has to take that responsibility extremely seriously. Just blanket reductions on speed limits will not be the thing that does that. It is the people who are already behaving irresponsibly by falling foul of any of those five things I have just listed, especially the people who are already behaving irresponsibly by driving in excess of the speed limit, we have to address—they are the ones whose behaviours we have to change.

But the people who are already driving at 110 km/h, or just below, who would now, if the speed limits were reduced, have to drive at 100 km/h or just below, are not the at-risk people, especially if they are not falling foul of the other four key issues that contribute to problems in this area. So, I oppose the blanket ban. It would not matter if it were a blanket reduction in a metropolitan or country area: you have to have a good positive reason to do it.

I went to a forum in Peterborough on this topic, arranged by the Minister for Road Safety, and it was very positive. There were probably about 15 of us as members of the public, including myself, mayors, councillors and other local people who came along. The departmental people who came and presented to us did a good job, and I appreciated them sharing that information with us. Probably the most important information they shared with us was when the minister said that there is proof that, where the speed limits have been reduced, road safety has improved. That is very important, but let us delve into that a little bit deeper.

On the specific roads where the speed limits have been reduced, where there has been improvement in road safety on those roads, yes, I would support maintaining the reduction under two other criteria, and I will come to those in a minute. The roads that have had their speeds reduced, where there has been no discernible improvement in road safety those roads should have their limits returned to what they were before.

I also clearly say that it is important to interrogate this road safety data in a bit of detail. It is not good enough to say, ‘Here is a stretch of road. The speed limit was reduced, and since then we have seen an improvement in road safety, i.e. fewer serious accidents and/or fewer fatalities.’ I know that on the roads where the speed limits have been reduced the road traffic volume has also been reduced.

People in country areas are avoiding the roads where the speed limit has been reduced and they are detouring onto the roads where the speed limits have not been reduced. Of course the traffic volume has decreased significantly on the roads where the speed limits have been reduced, so of course it is quite logical that the road safety may have improved as well. In that scenario, we do not know whether the road safety has improved because the speed limit was reduced or because the people are not driving on that road in the same volume as they did before.

Another important aspect to consider is road safety in terms not just of a stretch of road or the number of vehicles on that stretch of road, as I alluded to a minute ago, but also in terms of hours driven on the road. As the member for Hammond said, if the trip is stretched out and people are spending a bit more time on the road, then it really needs to be compared to usage. I can tell the house that there are roads throughout my electorate that people are avoiding now. All that does is push the risks onto the other roads where the speed limits have not been reduced.

If you push the traffic onto the other roads where the speed limit has not been reduced, of course you are going to have more accidents on those roads, and that falls into the government’s trap beautifully. All of a sudden, you have less traffic and fewer accidents on the roads where the speed limit has been reduced, and more traffic and more accidents on the roads where the speed limit has not been reduced. Guess what? They will want to reduce the speed limit on those roads as well. So, it is very important to interrogate this data in great detail.

In summary, reducing the speed limit is not addressing the five key issues the police are telling us are the key issues and it is penalising the wrong people. I will finish by saying that where there is a good, strong, cogent case for reducing a speed limit, and it can be proven that it works on a stretch of road, I would support it.