As of the start of August, the number of deaths on Victoria’s roads for the year stands at 174. A year ago at the corresponding time, it was 114. The question must be then asked, why the spike? Should the staggering rise in the road toll be seen as an aberration? Or are there emerging signs of deeper problems?
This is not merely a matter of a slight deviation. It is a significant margin – an increase of 52 per cent. And with that rocketing toll, there is a multiplier effect of grief and trauma for those who have been touched by it in some way.
The rise is saddening, and worrying, especially after last year’s total of 214 was the lowest in three decades.
Fatalities had been going down in the years previous to 2018: 45 fewer than in 2017, and 29 fewer than in 2013, which had the record for least deaths at 243.
These figures still are tragic. They represent a life taken. People of the 1970s, for instance, would marvel at the number. In the middle of that decade, the road toll hovered around 3500 nationwide, of which Victoria represented about a third. In 1970, for instance more than 1000 people died on the state’s roads. The introduction of mandatory seatbelts had an almost immediate effect on reducing fatalities, as did alcohol breath testing. The latter was introduced in Victoria in 1976. From 1977 to 2014, alcohol as a factor in a road death has dropped from 40 per cent to 15. The ratio is similar in NSW.