Reduction of Speed Limits on Rural Roads


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (15:29): I rise to speak on the extremely important topic of road safety. We would all consider any injury due to motor vehicle accidents on our roads to be very sad and certainly any death to be extremely tragic, and I have no hesitation in working with any or all members of parliament, regardless of political persuasion, on this topic. Last sitting week, in response to the government's announcement that it planned to reduce speed limits on many of our country roads, the shadow minister for road safety (the member for Kavel), the member for Chaffey and myself all took the opportunity to speak on this issue and express our view that, in essence, it is not the speed limit, it is the speeding that causes these problems.

In my contribution, I also took the opportunity to offer the very, very sad example of a CFS call-out that I personally attended in Wilmington a couple of years ago, where a motorist died; fortunately, the driver was the only person in the car. I estimate that he was going well in excess of double the speed limit when his car went off the road and hit a tree. It was exceptionally sad for all concerned but, no doubt, especially for his family and friends.

Very, very sadly, since the last sitting week—the last time I stood here and raised this issue—I personally attended another CFS call-out near Wilmington where, unfortunately, a motorist died in a car crash. I have to say that it was again nothing to do with the speed limit. The speed limits are not the issue. I will not go into many of the details, but this was a situation when, seemingly at the last moment, the driver's car swerved into an oncoming truck and, of course, he died instantly, we all hope. That was nothing to do with the speed limit; again, another sad, tragic example of a death on the road.

For the government to then have some sort of kneejerk reaction and implement bad policy and say, 'We'll clamp down on speed limits,' is not going to address this issue. I heard on talkback radio this morning that only 7 per cent of motor vehicle accidents are due to speed limits. I have no doubt that many of these sad instances are due to speeding. I have no doubt that many of them are due to people in 50-k zones or 60-k zones potentially going at 100 km/h, or people in 100-k or 110-k zones potentially driving at 130 km/h, 140 km/h, 150 km/h, whatever it might be, but it is not the speed limit.

There are serious issues in regard to road maintenance. We all know that there is a $200 million backlog in road maintenance that the government has not addressed. That is very, very serious, but dropping down the speed limits will not address this sad issue. Since then we have heard the announcement from the new Minister for Road Safety outlining exactly where these road speed limits will be reduced—all fairly close to Adelaide. As some people might know, the electorate of Stuart comes down quite close to Adelaide. I see that on this map there are roads between the towns of Kapunda, Eudunda and Truro that are all to be affected, as is the road between Kapunda and Gawler.

Kapunda, Eudunda and Truro are all in the electorate of Stuart, and Kapunda is the second largest town after Port Augusta in the electorate of Stuart, so an enormous number of my constituents will be very, very negatively impacted by this poor decision to slow them down. The people who are going to slow down from 110 km/h to 100 km/h on these roads are not the people who are likely to be putting their lives or other people's lives at risk and potentially injuring themselves or others, or potentially dying themselves or causing others to die on the roads.

It is not the speed limit: it is the speeding. Reducing the speed limits will not have an impact. It has to do with more policing, driver education, driver awareness and, more than anything else, drivers taking responsibility for themselves, their vehicles, their passengers and everybody else who happens to be on the road.

I drove well in excess of 100,000 kilometres a year for a few years while running my businesses in the outback. I currently drive well in excess of 60,000 kilometres a year as a member of parliament—and that is when my car is parked here at Parliament House for one week out of every two or three weeks when we are sitting. I feel comfortable speaking on this. I know that deaths on our roads are extremely sad and tragic events, but for the government to clamp down on the good drivers will not affect the problem.


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