Focus on road safety

Death toll: Fifty-one people have been killed on Western Australian roads so far this year - almost one death every two days. Photo: Shutterstock.
Death toll: Fifty-one people have been killed on Western Australian roads so far this year - almost one death every two days. Photo: Shutterstock.

Fifty-one people have been killed on Western Australian roads so far this year - almost one death every two days.

Alarmingly, 27 of those deaths occurred on regional roads.

The highest road toll up to April 16 in recent years was 57 in 2016 and before that, the next closest was 50 in 2015.

In 2018, the Wheatbelt region alone, bounded in the north by Dalwallinu, in the east by Yilgarn and in the south by Lake Grace and Wagin, saw 25 fatal crashes.

Most recently this year, a driver was killed in a crash on Great Eastern Highway, about 3.5 kilometres east of Clydesdale Road, on March 29. About 3.20am, the Holden Commodore sedan left the road and struck a tree before catching fire. The driver, who was the sole occupant of the vehicle, died at the scene.

Just days earlier on March 25, a 50-year-old man died after his car collided with a tree in Bolgart. The Subaru Outback was travelling north on Toodyay Road when it left the road and struck a tree. The driver died at the scene.

On March 16, a truck driver died as a result of life threatening injuries he received when his truck collided with a tree near Dalwallinu. About 1pm, the 50-year-old Ellenbrook man was towing two semi-trailers on Gunyidi-Wubin Road when it left the carriageway near Pearse Road. He died at the scene.

Road trauma, whether they be fatalities or serious injuries, have a ripple affect on the community.

Every year motorists are reminded to "drive safely" by authorities, but still the numbers climb - this year marking a significant spike in the road toll.

Road Safety Council chairman Iain Cameron said deaths on regional roads were over represented in the statistics.

"These aren't just numbers, these are all people with families who are now grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one," he said.

Mr Cameron said, unfortunately, the most common kind of serious crash on regional roads were single vehicles running off the side of the road.

"The majority of these crashes are most likely to involve distraction, inattention, driving tired while speeding and drink and drug driving are also contributing factors," he said.

"A run off road crash at 100 or 110km/h can result in life-altering injuries or death, while the same crash in the metropolitan area at a speed of 50 or 60 km/h may have lesser consequences for the people involved."

"Risk-taking behaviours such as speeding and drink driving still contribute to road trauma in WA, but about 70 per cent of all serious crashes now involve someone making a mistake such as a momentary lapse in concentration or driving tired. We need to avoid complacency, be aware of the role fatigue, inattention and distraction play in road trauma and take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe journey."

In response to the road toll, the WA government has implemented a number of initiatives in an effort to address the disproportionately high road toll in regional areas.

A dedicated high patrol unit for regional roads to target unsafe driving behaviours, the Regional Enforcement Unit, joined police operations in January 2018.

An additional 25 police officers were recruited for the specialist traffic squad, with that number boosted by another 14 again in February.

Road safety minister Michelle Roberts said there are also more police on major country roads.

"But we need everyone to play their part by considering their own behaviour behind the wheel," she said.

"Road safety is everyone's responsibility and if we all make a commitment to drive so others survive, then we can work together to reduce death and injury on our roads and prevent more families experiencing the tragedy of road trauma."

A number of roads in the Wheatbelt region have secured funding for improvements as part of a $500 million upgrade of regional roads around the state.

The intersection of York-Merredin Road and Totadgin Hall Road will be upgraded under the project at a cost of $650,000 to realign the road and improve the curve design speed.

Additionally, $1.285 million will be spent on stage three to complete the construction of intersections on York-Merredin Road in the Shire of Quairading.

The project will realign and widen the Junction Road intersection to remove conflict points between the truck layover area and information bay access road and widen the Ashton Street intersection to achieve suitable stacking distance from the rail crossing and improve visibility.

In WA, 100 per cent of all red light and speed camera infringements go into the Road Trauma Trust Account (RTTA). Those funds are then allocated to improve road safety across the state.

The state government recently allocated $70 million from the RTTA to fund safety treatments and improvements on regional roads where there is a high risk of run off road crashes.