By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim
The NSW road toll continues to climb, despite extra spending by the NSW government on programs marketed as road safety initiatives and more police officers on highway patrol.
Last financial year, the state government set aside $300 million for roads in its annual budget, including $70 million for road safety programs.
But despite the increase in spending, the holiday road toll stands at double the same time last year, and the annual road toll has risen for the second year running.
Holiday road toll ‘very traumatic’
Since the holiday period commenced on the 19th of December 2017, 28 have people died on NSW roads, compared with the 14 deaths at this time last year.
This is despite the new ‘Operation Safe Arrival’ campaign, which aims to educate drivers about the dangers of speed, fatigue, mobile phone use and of course, drink and drug driving
The holiday period has been described by police as ‘very traumatic’ and ‘incredibly tough’.
Speed is the number one killer
Speed remains the biggest killer, with the deaths of 168 people attributed to excessive speed – which makes up more than 40% of the road toll.
Over 250,000 speeding tickets were issued in our state in 2017 – 20,000 of them during the holiday period to 31 December 2017. Police say they are frustrated that drivers are still not getting the message.
Figures from the Centre for Road Safety suggest that a person is killed or injured on NSW roads every 42 minutes.
Annual road toll
392 people lost their lives on our roads in 2017, which was 12 more than the previous year.
The government set an ambitious target to reduce the road toll by at least 30 per cent by 2021 following one of the worst years on our roads – 2009, when there were 408 deaths.
Since then, the toll had been in steady decline, except for 2016 and 2017.
Roads Minister Melinda Pavey described the recent spike as ‘incredibly disappointing’, but has vowed not to concede defeat. Ms Pavey acknowledged alarming figures such as heavy truck deaths increasing by 25, to 81 fatalities, passenger deaths up from 54 to 82, female deaths up from 97 to 118, and deaths of drivers aged 60 to 69 increasing from 40 to 52.
The minister says that while the road toll is too high, there are initiatives that are working.
Deaths of drivers not wearing seatbelts has fallen in the past year from 30 to 13. Pedestrian deaths also fell from 71 to 54. Fatal accidents involving young drivers also fell slightly, and alcohol-related crashes are in decline.
Country roads a priority
The government plans to invest around $8 billion in road infrastructure and upgrades, focusing $90 million on country roads in an effort to eliminate regional deaths.
There are more cars than ever before on NSW roads, with the number of vehicles registered in the state currently standing at 6.4 million. All drivers are being urged to take care and drive responsibly in order to help bring down the road toll.
Wishing you all safe driving in 2018.