Call to limit road speeds

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A INCREASING road toll has reinforced Mornington Peninsula Shire Council’s call for blanket speed limits rather than just on specific roads.

Former mayor Cr David Gill said an 80kph limit should be trialled in dangerous areas in a bid to reduce road deaths which have spiked on the peninsula over the past 12 months. 

So far this year the toll stands at 13 dead and 100 seriously injured. The deaths include six drivers, a motorcyclist, four passengers and two pedestrians on freeways and country roads.

Last year there were two deaths in line with the long-term average.

Cr Gill wants 80kph speed limits on all narrow and unmade roads throughout the peninsula.

“Mornington Peninsula Shire was the first council in Victoria to sign up to the Towards Zero campaign,” he said. “We have 330 kilometres of dirt roads and lots of them are narrow and winding. 

“We have 6.3 million tourists annually wandering around from tourist site to tourist site and that means we have a huge problem.

“Half the deaths so far this year have been on rural roads and half of them have been tourists, and we are coming to the most dangerous time of the year so that figure will go up.”

Among the peninsula’s most dangerous roads are Coolart Road, which has an 80kph limit, Tubarubba Road, Shoreham Road, and Frankston-Flinders Road which the former mayor described as “very dangerous”. There are also concerns about Limestone Road, Boneo.

Cr Gill said the road danger increased when drivers crossed the intersections of roads with different speed limits. Stumpy Gully Road, which he labelled the “most dangerous dirt road on the peninsula” has a 100kph limit but crosses made roads, such as Bungower Road, which has an 80kph limit. Balnarring Road with its 80kph limit is also crossed by roads that have 100kph limits.

“Why not bring the limit down on all these roads to 80kph over a wide area, because it’s the area that is dangerous,not just the individual roads,” Cr Gill said.

Dirt roads are not signed meaning the default limit is 100kph.

“VicRoads says people drive to the conditions, but that is simply not true: ask the tradie rushing to an appointment, or truckies on a deadline,” he said.

Cr Gill led a TV news crew along Stumpy Gully Road to illustrate his point. “I was driving at about 50 kilometres an hour. When we stopped, I told them the road actually has a 100 limit and they said they’d thought it was dangerous driving at 50.”  

The peninsula runs the gamut of roads: hilly, narrow, dirt, coastal, scenic and freeways.

“We are ideally suited to the Towards Zero campaign, but we need to find more innovative ways to achieve it,” Cr Gill said.

Roundabouts, while effective, are costly, with the cheapest costing $2 million or more. Cr Gill said the proposed Balnarring five-ways roundabout would cost more than $8 million.

“We need to come up with innovative road treatments that cut the road toll but don’t cost an arm and a leg,” he said.

The TAC, police and emergency services, such as the SES and CFA, support a reduced speed limit, Cr Gill said. “They know our roads are dangerous, with dirt shoulders and trees only metres off the road; if you hit a tree that’s the end of it.”

First published in the Frankston Times – 18 November 2019

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