Premier Daniel Andrews with Roads Minister Luke Donnellan, right, and Victoria's head of road policing, Assistant ...
Premier Daniel Andrews with Roads Minister Luke Donnellan, right, and Victoria's head of road policing, Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer, left. Photo: Anthony M Leong
Speeds on "narrow, lower-quality, high-speed" country roads would be reduced from 100km/h under a new safety strategy released by Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday.
It comes following the escalation of deaths on Victorian roads – 252 died last year. It is nine more than died during 2013, when 243 perished – the lowest recorded annual death numbers on Victorian roads.
The government's Towards Zero road-safety strategy aims to reduce deaths on Victorian roads to below 200 within four years.
To do so, along with upgrading 20 major roads in regional Victoria, it plans to establish "safer travel speeds" on some rural roads.
"You are four times more likely if you are a rural driver to be involved in a fatal crash. We know that our country roads need to be better," Mr Andrews said on Sunday, promising to invest $340 million to upgrade major country roads.
But the strategy outlining this also includes a plan to lower speeds on lower profile rural roads.
"There is an extensive network of narrow, lower quality, high-speed roads spread across rural Victoria that provide vital local connections and help rural economies thrive," the Towards Zero strategy said.
"But for every 100-kilometre stretch of this type of road, three people will die or be seriously injured every year. Building local knowledge of the danger of these roads will help people understand the need to drive at safer speeds."
VicRoads enraged motorists in Victoria's south-west in March when it announced plans to drop speed limits on some council-maintained rural roads to 80km/h.
A VicRoads spokeswoman on Sunday said there would be "no blanket speed reductions" rolled out by the road authority's officers as part of the Towards Zero strategy.
"What they will be doing is sitting down and targeting roads that have a poor safety record," she said. "It will be done on a case-by-case basis."
Ryan Smith, the opposition's roads spokesman, said the move was about saving money for the Andrews government. "They are going to target the roads that they do not want to fix," he said.
"I think we need to make the roads safe instead of telling them to slow down."
The new road safety strategy will include upgrades to some of the state's accident hot spots in a bid to stop deaths.
Flexible roadside and centre-line barriers, rumble strips and reflective guide posts will be installed on more than 2500 kilometres of rural roads. Wider centre lines will also be installed on some rural roads to better separate oncoming traffic.
The 20 high-risk roads that will be upgraded include the Hume Highway between Thomastown and Wodonga, the Calder Freeway between Bendigo and Keilor Park, and the Geelong-Bacchus Marsh Road.
In the past five years, 42 people have died on these three roads alone, while another 358 have been seriously injured.
There has been a 10 per cent jump so far this year in road deaths, with 107 people killed, up from 97 by the same time last year.