Should speed limits be dropped?

By Jason Smith

The West Australian recently reported that Max Cameron, of Monash University's accident research centre, a road trauma expert, is calling on MP's to reduce the state's speed limit to 90km/h for cars, and 80km/h for trucks.

The first thing that springs to mind often is: At 90 km/h a drive from Geraldton to Perth would feel frustratingly slow...

But road trauma is certainly a big deal, yet even at 90 won't people still fall asleep behind the wheel? Crash tests are only conducted at up to 64km/h due to there being such little chance of survival at higher speeds.  And two cars colliding at 90km/h don't give the occupants much more chance of survival than at 110km/h. 

Of course there is more to lowering the speed limit than just reducing the impact of a collision. Drivers would be more likely to regain control of a vehicle after losing control, braking distances would be greatly reduced thus preventing many accidents and saving lives, and of course we would all adjust eventually just as we have to the 50km/h speed limit in residential areas now. These days when I see a car doing 60 or so near my house I feel angry and think of my children's safety.

The question we have to ask ourselves is what level of inconvenience are we willing to endure compared to how many lives we want to save? Certainly a speed reduction would reduce fatalities, and the advocates of the reductions would claim a moral victory. But then, wouldn't reducing the speed limits to 40km/h save even more lives? What about banning cars altogether? How many lives would we save then?

No-one is willing to spell out that they are trying to find a sweet spot between economic and social convenience and people's lives, thus putting a price on a human life, but that is essentially what we have to do. If we say that no one should die on our roads no matter what the cost then we essentially need to ban driving.

Having personally lost family in vehicle accidents, I feel there needs to be open, frank and respectful discussion on the issue of road trauma and how to reduce it. No option should be ruled out of discussion if it has the potential to save lives, even if it means a bit of inconvenience or extra expense.

It would be great to see a push for driverless technologies that enabled cars to detect each other, pedestrians and road conditions with greater accuracy than human drivers. Google in particular are working hard at this and laws are starting to be passed in certain US states that allow for these vehicles on the road. And Toyota and Audi are set to unveil their own driverless cars soon too. 

Click here to have a read of the upcoming unveiling:

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Jason Smith

Jason is the author of Everything Perth. He’s also a law student, small business owner, husband, and father of three boys.