From the Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS) newsletter.
A drop in cars on the road may be encouraging some motorists to drive at higher speeds and panic-buying of alcohol could be leading to increased drink-driving, a leading road safety expert has warned. Victoria’s road toll has been higher than for the same period last year despite a drop in traffic due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Since businesses started enforcing working-from-home arrangements one month ago, there have been 18 road deaths – one more than during the same stretch last year. As we enter the typically dangerous Easter period on Victoria’s roads, the state’s road toll sits at 75, only three deaths below 2019 levels, which was the worst year for fatalities since 2016.
Max Cameron, a road safety expert at the Monash University Accident Research Centre, cautioned against reading too much into a single month’s road-toll data, but warned less traffic may not necessarily result in improved safety. “The roads are less congested and likely there will be higher speeds and that means it will be more likely there will be deaths and serious injury,” Professor Cameron said.
If there is a 70 per cent drop in traffic, there may only be a 50 per cent drop in deaths and serious injuries, he estimated. “If we continue on as it is, there may be dramatic savings in death and serious injury, but it won’t be as big as the drop in traffic suggests.”
“While motorists should not be leaving their homes unless it is necessary to do so, RACV is urging drivers to be extra cautious; safety should be front of mind given there is less traffic and higher travel speeds,” he said. Seventy-five people have died on Victoria’s roads so far this year, which is higher than the five-year average of 68.
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