Towards zero: councils aim to eliminate road deaths

A coalition of councils has pledged to bring road deaths down to zero in line with a campaign from state and federal governments.  

As the level of government closest to both roads and local drivers, the councils have rallied behind a call for action on the road toll, with people driving on country roads four times more likely to be killed than in metro areas.

The pledge comes after the Commonwealth last week announced a road safety governance review, implementng one of the recommendations of a recent report aiming to achieve zero road deaths by 2050, as Government News reported last week.

A stronger partnership with councils is one of the twelve recommendations from the National Road Safety Inquiry, which prompted co-chair Professor Jeremy Woolley to call for all levels of government to work harder to combat the road toll earlier this month.

Earlier this year NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a campaign to drive country road deaths down through stronger partnerships with local councils as part of a strategy to bring the state’s toll to zero by 2056.

Yass Valley Council in NSW is one local government that has backed the State and Commonwealth’s target, with 80 per cent of deaths and serious injuries in its roads caused by single vehicle crashes.

A recent campaign targeting drivers was launched by council as part of its Road Safety Program in a bid to get drivers to pledge to change their habits behind the wheel by promising their loved ones they’ll talk or text later, take breaks and drive to conditions.

Mayor Rowena Abbey was the first resident of Yass Valley to make a pledge, promising her loved ones that she will ‘Drive to Conditions’.

“Conditions are always changing on country roads so it is crucial we don’t become complacent while driving,” said Cr Abbey.

Council also ran a number of other localised programs including providing a breathalyser at local events like horse races, and running a ‘Don’t Trust your Tired Self’ campaign, Terry Cooper, manager of implementation for council’s road safety program told Government News.

A program to ensure all council roads are maintained also forms part of the campaign, as well as running a targeted radio campaign during high-risk periods.

The campaign has been a success, Mr Cooper said, with the number of fatalities in the area dropping in line with the state.

Victoria’s coastal Mornington Peninsula Council has also made the pledge, becoming one of the first Victorian councils to back the state government’s Towards Zero campaign.

The Victorian Government launched the Towards Zero campaign two years ago after the road toll climbed from 83 to 95, with the aim of all 79 local governments committing to the target.

Since backing the State’s campaign, Mornington Peninsula Shire has commenced a series of major road safety initiatives including matching $1 million in funding from the state to implement road safety work in high risk residential areas.

The council is also looking to improve road safety in one of its busiest pedestrian areas and has floated a possible 40 km speed limit.

Council are also set to commence community consultation this year to get a better understanding of some of the key issues relating to road safety in high risk areas.

The campaign has been a huge success, according to Doug Bradbrook, traffic and road strategist at Mornington Peninsula Shire.

“We’ve seen a trend coming down from 10 deaths in 2015 down to 4 in 2016 and this year down to 2. Serious injuries also seem to be coming in the right direction We’ll start to see more gains in the coming 2-3 years in reducing the road toll,” he says.

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