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‘We want to see change’: Calls to slash speed on Mornington Peninsula

Cr Gill said speed limits were too high on rural roads across Mornington Peninsula, which includes the holiday hotspots of Portsea, Sorrento, Merricks and Flinders.

Dirt roads on which there was an assumed speed limit of 100km/h were a major concern.

“We’re really anxious now. We want to see change,” he said. “If we don’t act now the problems are going to get worse.”

Cr Gill said much of the peninsula’s 330 kilometres of unmade roads had a “de facto” speed limit of 100km/h.

“We need to lower the speed limits on those roads.”

The council also wants lower speed limits on some paved rural roads, excludingfreeways and suburban streets.

The mayor’s calls for widespread speed limit reductions puts him at odds with the state government, which has no plans to lower default limits on country roads in the area.

The council has safety concerns about Limestone Road among other routes.

The council has safety concerns about Limestone Road among other routes.Credit:Joe Armao

So far this year there have been 233 road deaths across Victoria, compared with 177 for the same period last year. In October, the Victorian road toll surpassed the 2018 total.

Country roads have accounted for well over half this year’s fatalities.

The Mornington Peninsula contains a diverse mix of roads, including freeways, gravel roads and suburban streets.

Speed limits have already been lowered in some parts of the region in recent years. Yet deaths in 2019 have included six drivers, one motorcyclist, four passengers and two pedestrians.

The fatalities have occurred on both freeways and country roads.

Last year, one driver and one cyclist were killed on the peninsula. The year-on-year increase is not enough to indicate a statistical trend but it has horrified councillors and residents.

The local government areas of Greater Geelong and Monash both recorded the second highest number of fatalities, with 10 each so far this year.

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Cr Gill said he had previously asked the state government to lower speed limits throughout Mornington Peninsula, but now urgent action was required before the summer influx.

He said more roundabouts would also help save lives at some of the dangerous intersections.

The Mornington Peninsula is home to about 165,000 residents but receives well over 6 million visitors a year, Cr Gill said.

He said there were many intersections of paved and unmade roads throughout the Mornington Peninsula that were particularly dangerous.

Abrupt speed limit changes and varying road conditions were particularly confusing for tourists, he said.

“They want to explore the peninsula. We want that too but we want them to go home safely.”

A spokesman for the state government said it carefully considered all changes to speed limits in consultation with local councils, the community, Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and police to ensure they were safe.

But he rejected the push for widespread speed limit reductions on the Mornington Peninsula.

“We have no plans to lower the default speed limit on rural roads and we encourage Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to get in touch with specific roads to assess on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

TAC figures show that regional Victorian roads are over-represented in the road toll, with 132 of the 234 fatalities this year occurring on rural roads.

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The TAC’s road safety lead director, Samantha Cockfield, said many of the road deaths this year resulted from simple mistakes rather than deliberately risky driving.

“On high-speed regional roads, these mistakes can be fatal,” she said. “We’re working on creating a road system that is more forgiving when mistakes happen and need all Victorians to make safe decisions when they’re using the roads.”

Crib Point resident Jeremy Sallmann said he had seen the standard of driving deteriorate in the 15 years he has lived on the peninsula. He said sudden changes in speed limits and an increase in visitors unfamiliar with local roads were among the biggest dangers.

Mr Sallmann, who often drives around the peninsula, wants a blanket 80km/h speed limit on rural roads that currently allow 100km/h.

“I don’t travel over 80km/h because it’s just not safe,” he said.

Mr Sallmann said earlier this year his adult daughter had an accident with another driver who sailed past a give way sign.

“Many visitors don’t know the road conditions well.”

Monash University Accident Research Centre senior research fellow, David Logan, agreed that lower speed limits were an appropriate request to enhance road safety.

He said small reductions in speed limits could deliver a big decline in the road toll.

Dr Logan said cutting the speed limit was the only way to reduce the risk of death or serious injury on country roads where upgrades to infrastructure, including safety barriers, were impossible.

Dr Logan said slashing speed limits was politically unpopular but studies had shown that people were willing to drive more slowly in the interests of safety.

“People are willing to accept lower speed limits because they see it’s the only way to prevent death and serious injury in most cases,” he said.

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