Road safety report recommends more support for councils

Local councils need to be given more support for initiatives to ensure safe behaviour on the roads, a Victorian parliamentary committee has found.

Committee Chair Alison Marchant

The lower house Committee has released its report 12 months after launching an inquiry into road behaviour during and after covid, and the impact on vulnerable road users.

During evidence it heard from a number of stakeholders including local governments in metropolitan and regional areas.

The inquiry focused on vulnerable road users including pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, who accounted for 36 per cent of all lives lost on Victorian roads in 2023.

“We learned that it is likely that the number of lives lost on Victorian roads increased over the past two years because of changes to road users’ behaviour,” Committee chair Alison Marchant says.

“We also learned that it is not easy to change people’s behaviour simply by educating or urging them to be more responsible.

“Awareness is important but complementary approaches are needed to change behaviour and protect vulnerable road users such as enforcement and infrastructure that separates vulnerable road users from motor vehicles and that guides motorists to slow down.”

Among the committee’s findings, it says there’s been a decline in responsible road behaviour and an uptick in aggression, impatience, risk‑taking, distraction and rule breaking.

It also found a need for more support for councils to address local roads, and for more attention to be given to regional roads and improving cycling infrastructure.

Support for councils

The report notes councils have access to roads funding available in the form of the federal Roads to Recovery program and state government programs worth up to $1.5 million, including the Local Government Grant Program.

But it says that program needs to be reviewed by the Transport Accident Commission to ensure it’s enough to meet the needs of the community.

“Less rigid eligibility and funding criteria from Victorian and Australian Governments would give councils the flexibility to develop and implement road treatments with wider safety benefits,” the report says.

The committee also says it should be easier for councils to designate low speed limits, describing the current system as ‘onerous and time-consuming’.

Focus on regional roads

Almost two‑thirds of lives lost on Victorian roads over the past five years have been in regional areas, where poor conditions compromise safety, the report says.

It says regional road conditions worsened during covid, when lockdowns and problems finding labour and materials prevented adequate maintenance.

The committee also notes that despite a perception that regional fatalities mainly involve visitors, most people who lose their lives in regional areas are locals, with Transport Accident Commission data from 2017 to 2019 indicating about 65 per cent die within a 30‑kilometre radius of their home.

Despite a perception that regional fatalities mainly involve visitors, most people who lose their lives in regional areas are locals.

“Poor road conditions in regional areas add a further risk to drivers, especially when they are unfamiliar with the road or when new hazards emerge following major weather events,” the report says.

It recommends the TAC run a targeted campaign for regional roads, highlighting the factors contributing to fatalities, including speed, distractions and variable conditions.

It also recommends The Victorian Government prioritise regional road treatments for vulnerable road users, including working with regional councils on high‑speed roads and intersections, aimed at supporting safer road behaviours.

Closer collaboration with councils to boost cycling

Regional areas lack active and public transport infrastructure, the report says, with most residents in regional Victoria relying on a car to get around.

In western Victoria, only 7 per cent of residents walk to work, 2 per cent ride a bike, motorbike or scooter, and 0.1 per cent use public transport.

Finally, the committee recommends  the Department of Transport and Planning work with councils to map existing and approved cycling infrastructure across the state to identify opportunities to link and connect cycling infrastructure projects.

It also says the state government should prioritise development of the Strategic Cycling Corridor network in metropolitan and regional Victoria.

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