NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has unveiled the state’s new road safety package under the governments “Towards Zero” strategy which comes after a horrific holiday and annual road toll increase.
On Tuesday, February 6, the Premier outlined the new strategy to tackle road deaths after a horror year on NSW roads, which saw 28 people die over the Christmas period and 392 people in total die.
2017 was the third consecutive year that the road toll has risen with fatalities involving cars up by close to 20 per cent while light trucks has increased by nearly 85 per cent, despite the government investing $300 million into road safety in the last financial year and their total spending on roads having double since being elected.
The government’s road safety campaign has had some positive outcomes in the past year however, with the number of fatal crashes involving younger drivers decreased, as well as the number of crashes where fatigue or not wearing a seatbelt were a contributing factor having also dropped significantly in the past year.
It is not enough, however, for Ms Berejiklian who said she was determined to stop the cycle of heartbreak from continuing and hopes that the new road strategy will be the solution.
“Any preventable death is something we need to address,” she said.
The new “Towards Zero” strategy will include fitting more wire dividers between lanes, introducing a network of camera’s that catch drivers using their phones, making it mandatory for mid-range drink drivers to have a car with an interlock breathalysing device to test they are sober before driving and increasing the crackdown on people driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Roadside mobile drug testing is set to be doubled from last year to a total of 200,000 tests and it will include screening for cocaine, with the Premier also currently in talks with both legal and medical professionals to establish a plan to catch people who drive when they are impeded by medical drugs, such as methadone.
The plan has come under scrutiny as point to point cameras that currently catch speeding truck drivers by measuring their average speed over a long distance will not be changed to include cars as well, despite the government having been present a brief to do so in Cabinet on Thursday, February 1, and speeding being the main cause of fatal road crashes in NSW accounting for 40 per cent.
While the Premier says she is “open” to the idea, some National MPs oppose using point to point cameras to catch car drivers as they believe it isn’t popular amongst their constituents and that it is the responsibility of the driver themselves to drive safely, using examples of the low road tolls in Europe despite having higher speed limits.
Ms Berejiklian is still committed to lowering the country road toll which accounts for over 50% of the states vehicle fatality total and has promised $125 million to make upgrades to existing rural roads, pledging that her new plan “is about making sure we’re doing everything we can to reduce the heartache.”