Trevor Collett | Sep 14, 2016

Australia’s outdated speed laws are again under the microscope, with an ex-highway patrol officer from Victoria Police, now a member of parliament, calling for a sensible discussion on the issue.

State Liberal MP Bill Tilley - a Victoria Police officer for 12 years with three years served in the Highway Patrol - suggested parts of the Hume Highway in Victoria could be suitable for a 130km/h speed limit, pending further installation of wire-rope barriers and improvements to road shoulders.

Mr Tilley’s electorate of Benambra takes in the northern-most section of the Hume Highway in Victoria, including a section which abruptly, and bizarrely, switches to an 80km/h speed limit for just a few hundred metres. This is the only interruption to the regular 110km/h limit on the Hume Hwy between Sydney and Melbourne.

The rest of the road, however, is ripe for a higher limit according to Mr Tilley, which would see passenger vehicles allowed to travel up to 20km/h faster than they do now when conditions were suitable.

Mr Tilley also called for a 110km/h limit on the Princes Freeway connecting Melbourne with Geelong to replace the current 100km/h limit.

Hume Freeway
Hume Freeway

“Support received from around Victoria and the nation on my call for an inquiry into speed limits on the state’s freeways certainly indicates that we are ready for this debate,” Mr Tilley said on social media.

“I’ve spent plenty of hours on the Hume freeway seeing all kinds of incidents, all kinds of driver behaviour, seeing increases in our infrastructure and increases in demands for better vehicles, so I’m simply [saying] we should have the debate, and see what we can realise for the future,” Mr Tilley said, speaking with Melbourne radio 3AW.

Predictably, Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews immediately poured cold water on the idea, saying the government has “no plans to change” the state’s freeway speed limits.

“I am always happy to have a debate and a discussion about all sorts of issues, I tend to take my advice though on road safety matters from Victoria Police, from places like the Monash University Accident Research Centre, places like the TAC,” Mr Andrews said.

“Many people have views and opinions, that's fine, but we have no plans to changes our speed limit to 130km/h.”

Currently, only the Northern Territory has any speed limit higher than 110km/h in Australia at 130km/h. This will soon become the NT’s highest permissible speed, as the newly-elected Labor government in the NT has already announced its intentions to scrap the Territory’s network of open speed limits.

South Australia’s state limit of 110km/h is also under threat, with the SA Government previously touting a blanket 100km/h limit state-wide.


QUT Says 40 Is The New 50

Meanwhile, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) says Australia should consider a new 40km/h limit for suburban streets, with QUT claiming research suggests the lower limit could reduce road trauma.

Marina Alexander and Dr Mark King, from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q), say the current ‘default’ suburban speed limit of 50km/h is too high.

“We say 50km/h is too high for local streets, which is why we are seeing 40km/h zones around schools and shopping areas introduced all over the country as local governments respond to public demand for lower speeds,” Ms Alexander said.

“Many countries in Europe have introduced 30km/h for local streets and these countries lead the world in road safety outcomes.”

Ms Alexander said a lower limit would offer greater protection to vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists.

“If a person in a motor vehicle is involved in a road crash at 50km/h they have a 10 percent or less chance of being killed - those are pretty good odds,” Ms Alexander said.

“However, if an unprotected person, such as a cyclist or pedestrian is involved, their chances of being killed rise to between 50 and 80 percent. Those odds are very bad.”

Ms Alexander said safer vehicles have a part to play (the rollout of autonomous emergency braking could be a suggestion here), but higher urban speeds weren’t necessarily resulting in reduced travel times.

Australia has already ‘slowed down’ once, with all states and territories implementing a rollout of 50km/h suburban limits in place of 60km/h limits during the 1990s.

Despite the call, many built-up areas in Australia’s towns and cities already have a limit of 40km/h, including the CBD in both Sydney and Melbourne.

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