Data released by VicRoads suggests our 100km/h and 110km/h Calder Fwy and Hume Hwy are safer arterial motorways than the largely de-restricted autobahns in Germany.
Based on a per billion vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) variable, VicRoads has produced graphical information purporting that two of our busiest motorways are safer than the high-speed autobahn network often argued as being safer.
The press release discusses the ‘on-gong debate’ on autobahn safety, acknowledging that some “political figures who claim drivers take more responsibility on roads with no speed limits,” but maintains that “accident statistics show that more lives are lost on autobahns with no speed limits”.
VicRoads also claims ‘clear evidence’ from speed-restricted sections shows a decreased number of road deaths and injuries. An ‘Autobahn Fact Sheet‘ indicates that from 2005 to 2006, the 70% and 64% of road deaths respectively, occurring on unrestricted autobahns – aside from being over 10-year-old data – doesn’t mention the downward trend. Coupled with additional information indicating that mean speeds increased from 1982-1992, despite the introduction of a 100km/h trial limit from 1984-1987 which it’s claimed resulted in a quarter reduction in deaths/injuries per billion VKT.
The latest references used in the fact sheet are from 2007, and neglects to consider that in 2013 the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed Australia’s road fatalities per billion VKT as 5.2 compared with Germany’s 4.9. In the same data, the German road fatality total was 3540 versus Australia’s 1252 – a smaller number yes, but our population was at 23.3 million compared with Germany’s 80.5 million. That’s one road death for every 18.6K in Australia, compared with 22.7K in Germany (with 22 times less space to drive in).
In 2013 a study released by the International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD) rated Australia 15th among the 32 member countries, and in 2015 the International Transport Forum in Leipzig revealed for 2013 (at the time the latest year information was available for), Australia’s 5.1 road deaths per 100,000 population scored higher than Germany’s 4.1 figure. Granted, both Australia and Germany have improvements to make considering Sweden’s 2.7 and the UK’s 2.8 deaths per 100,000 that year.
According to www.best-selling-cars.com there were 61.5 million vehicles registered in Germany on January 1, 2014, including 53 million cars and light commercial vehicles. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Motor Vehicle Census, in 2015 Australia had only 18 million registered vehicles, 16 million of which were cars and LCVs – three and a half times more vehicles likely to be involved in a crash.
In September 2016 Victorian Liberal MP Bill Tilley, a former police officer of 12 years – three with Highway Patrol – encouraged that the 110km/h Hume Hwy speed limit could safely be increased to 130km/h if wire rope barriers and road surfacing continues up the national major road.
Tilley told Wheels magazine, “What I am doing is challenging our statutory bodies, our road safety experts, and everybody to challenge themselves,” he said.
“We see in parts of western society and Europe that you can travel safely at 130km/h during good conditions and down to 110km/h in wet conditions. And certainly their roads aren’t necessarily any better than what we have got here – particularly the Hume highway I am advocating.”
RACV’s public policy general manager Brian Negus agreed with Tilley on lifting the Princes Hwy speed limit to 110km/h, although not on the Hume speed increase.
There are also already numerous safety-conscious measures in place to reduce crashes and improve the German highway system including 100km/h zones around cities, speed restrictions in poor weather conditions and a strict highway code that strongly prohibits ‘undertaking’ (passing on the incorrect side) and going slow in the ‘passing lane’. In residential areas, speed limits drop to 30km/h and 50km/h. From 1970 to 2010 German road fatalities dropped by 80 per cent.
Other factors not considered in the VicRoads report include the strict and expensive German licensing system, motorist adherence to road laws, driver behaviour, age and crash-worthiness of the vehicle fleets in question and highway infrastructure such as variable speed limit systems and traffic management systems, of which the Calder Fwy and Hume Hwy have few.
Please take care over the Easter long weekend – AFMA wishes everybody a stress-free, patient, sober, well-rested and focussed trip. Wherever you might be headed.