Steane Klose | Apr 9, 2007

We are coming to the end of another Easter holiday period and like every Easter, people have tragically died on the countries roads. This gives the mainstream media plenty to write about as they update the death toll on a daily basis. Earlier today that count had reached 21 dead.

Ever vigilant and raising funds to fill in Victorian pot-holes.

Victoria, the home of brilliant campaigns like "speed kills" and "Wipe off 5 - save a life" has too many speed cameras to count but still manages to get the gold medal for the highest fatalities - nine. New South Wales takes the silver with six and Queensland where there will soon be so many restrictions on young drivers it will be easier to walk than drive takes the bronze with three fatalities. There have been two fatalities in Western Australia and one in the ACT.

So where does that leave us? Predictably, the press next week will run stories deploring the horror and carnage and calling for a solution. Police and politicians will do what they normally do and blame speeding motorists.

News reports will mention that "the Ford falcon was a V8" or the "young man" was driving a "performance car" because its convenient to suggest that the blame lies with the young or cars that people perceive to be faster than normal. Similar to believing that speed is the major reason for fatal accidents when in reality it is just one part of the problem not the problem in its entirety. Inevitably we will all go back to work and forget about it. Unless of course we knew one or more of the people who lost their lives.

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Victorian drivers now run into things 5 km/h slower than before

I do everything I can to avoid driving over the Easter weekend because it is just countrywide craziness on a grand scale but this whole road toll thing has me pondering such things as;

1/. Why is it that our goverments put most of the emphasis on speed when it is obvious to most drivers that poor driving skills, bad attitudes, impatience and fatigue are issues that are equally important?

2/. Currently in Victoria the revenue raised through speed and red light cameras is directed into improving and maintaining Victoria's roads system via the Better Roads Victoria Trust Fund. It is effectively a part of the Governments budget for road repair. Why isn't every cent of it put back into driver education and awareness programs? Wouldn't teaching people to drive well, be better than filling in pot-holes?

3/. We are bombarded with brilliant campaigns like "Wipe off 5 and save a life". Why can't there be mandatory car control and driver education training for new drivers so that they are taught to avoid hitting objects, rather than running into them 5km/h slower?

4/. Victoria claims to be leading the way in revenue raising...um er, I mean road safety initiatives. If this is the case then why is it that this Easter weekend Victoria takes the gold medal for the most road deaths? Have the politicians who have legislated against death on our roads got it wrong?

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Current driver training program in Australia. Strictly a DIY proposition and use your own money thanks. The government has pot-holes to mend.

We find ourselves in a situation where our governments actually budget for increased growth in speed camera revenue. Mr Brack’s is forecasting that he will be able to rip $416 million from the pockets of Victorians this year. That’s up from $316 million in 2005/06. In fact growth has been forecast to increase in the last five budgets. This is not a strange Victorian only phenomenon either. It would be reasonable to assume then, that speed cameras are not slowing people down. So why do our governments persist with them?

Money is really the only logical explanation as cameras don't seem to be saving many lives. It explains the fixation on speed and why it is being pushed as 'the' road-safety issue. The more it is jammed down our throats the more justification they think they have for installing more cameras. A rather brilliant marketing campaign for a secondary tax generator or a legitimate effort to save lives? If it was about saving lives you would expect the money to be put back into driver education.

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Driver training somewhere else. Looks like the driver is being taught to drive around solid objects, not run into them a little slower

So what we have is a country full of rather rattled drivers with no real driver education. They spend more time watching their speed than they do watching the road. They have exceptional reverse parking skills but don't realize that tailgating is dangerous. Speeding up when another car overtakes or overtaking around a corner are both as natural as driving slowly in the fast lane. It’s all as Australian as Aussie rules football and Toyotas.

Human life has always been a cheap commodity, slaves in Egypt, Gladiators in Rome and soldiers in countless wars. Building a pyramid in Egypt, storming a trench in France or fixing a pot-hole in downtown Melbourne. What matters a few lives in the pursuit of such noble endeavours.

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