The Northern Territory Government is massaging the results of a road safety report to justify the application of a 110km/h default speed limit on open roads, say restriction opponents KeepNTLimitFree.
“The NT Road Safety Taskforce Report commissioned by the Government isn’t about safety, it’s a tax issue,” said spokesperson Robert Atkinson.
“The report has no evidence that driving at more than 110km/h has been the cause of accidents on open roads currently with no limits.
“But a speed threshold will cause accidents because motorists will be on the roads longer, and could crash because of fatigue.
“This is just revenue raising by the Martin administration. They know people will fall into the penalty trap of speeding to cover large distances quickly,” he said.
“Maybe Transport Minister Delia Lawrie should put her hand up for the Treasurer’s job too!
“Chief Minister Clare Martin admitted in November last year that penalties would be dramatically increased for speeding,” he said. “It shows NT drivers have become government ‘cash cows’.”
“Territorians know the real killers on NT roads are unlicensed drivers, failure to wear seat belts and drink driving.”
“Opposition Leader Jodeen Carney is right in saying the root causes of road fatalities aren’t addressed by speed limits on the Stuart Highway and demerit points.”
“The Country Labor Party tried to apply a 130km/h speed limit and demerit points a decade ago. They had to back down because of widespread public hostility.
“We believe that same anger exits today. People opposed to this move can sign the petition on our website, www.KeepNTLimitFree.org.
“There will also be a public rally at Parliament House on February 13 at 10am to demand politicians axe the new laws.
“We will show Clare Martin we don’t subscribe to her rules. We will show the Government it could be toppled over this!”
Speed laws trouble rural sector
THE rural sector has attacked the NT Government for neglecting the “real problem” on bush roads by lowering the speed limit to 110km/h.
“The association was concerned with the lack of community and business representation within the road safety committee.
“These laws will inhibit regional development and increase the burden of doing business in rural regions of the Territory.
“Territorians are aware of the increasing fatality rate in the NT, but most Territorians are acutely aware that unlicensed drivers, seat belts and drink driving is the major cause of accidents and deaths in the Northern Territory.”
Acting Transport Minister Chris Burns said evidence showed that a limit of 110km/h on regional roads saved lives.
“The travelling time difference between 130km/h and 110km/h on the regional roads should not have a significant impact on business,” Dr Burns said.
But Elders stock and station agent Russell Simpson rejected the NT Government’s argument, saying politicians were out of touch with the rural sector.
“I travel 10,000km a month on rural roads and everyone I speak to agrees it will impact on business,” he said.
“As an example, it will take me an extra two-and-a-half hours to drive to Camfield station near Kalkaringi — it means I’ll have to sleep in my car on the side of the road so I don’t get fatigued. That means less time with my wife and kids. There should not be a speed limit on the open road. Lets face the facts it is just another tax.”
“The Government should be addressing the real issues, like the poor state of rural roads and lack of policing the previous laws.”
CLP PROMISES TO PUT SPEED LIMIT IN REVERSE
The Territory Opposition will overturn the Martin Government’s 130 km/h speed limit on the open road if returned to office at the next election.
“The restoration of the open road speed limit will be one of the first acts of a CLP Government,” says Jodeen Carney, Leader of the Opposition.
“I warned Territorians that the Government was attempting to soften them up for the imposition of a speed limit on the open road and that’s exactly what happened.
“The end of the open road speed limit is just the latest example of how the Martin Labor Government is eroding the Territory’s unique life style.
“The Martin Government’s decision to impose a 130km/h speed limit on the open highway doesn’t take account of the vast distances many motorists in the Territory have to travel.
“Of course Clare Martin usually hops into a plane whenever she needs to travel any great distance from Darwin.
“Just 5 years into the job as Chief Minister she’s become increasingly cocooned from the every day reality of life for most Territorians.
“Forcing Territorians to drive even longer hours than they presently do will increase the number of fatigue related accidents on the open road.
“The new speed limits are particularly bad for the Territorians who supply goods and services to regional and remote areas.
“The imposition of an open road speed limit will not tackle the entrenched problems with drink driving or people not wearing seat belts.
“The statistics on these two causes of deaths on our roads are stark. In nearly 50% of road fatalities, alcohol was a contributing factor and more than 50% of the time people weren’t wearing a seat belt on their final journey.
“That’s why the Opposition has announced tough measures to curb drink driving and to get everybody in the car to belt up before the journey begins.”
Southern Professor A Desk Top Expert on Speed
The comments by Professor Ian Johnson from the Accident Research Centre at Monash University saying that the speed limit on Territory Roads should be 100 km/h is likely used by the Territory Government as a smoke screen to introduce speed limits in the Territory according the Opposition Transport spokeswoman Fay Miller.
“The Government appears to be positioning itself to impose speed limits and they will dress it up to be a compromise when they do.”, Opposition Transport spokeswoman Fay Miller said today.
“What they appear to be doing is flagging the introduction of a slightly faster speed limit so that they can claim that they have protected Territorians from people like Professor Johnson.
“People need to remember that it is this Government that has the discretion to impose speed limits and nobody else.
“A quick review of the media releases of the Accident Research Centre at Monash reveals that they have concerns about speed, motor scooters, the dangers of playtime and the risks of climbing a ladder.
“It is the job of that Centre to find danger and they put a great deal of effort into doing so. It is the job of Government to balance those risks with the demands of daily life. The open speed limit on Territory roads is an expectation that Territorians have for good and practical reasons. Professor Johnson says that it would be better to be on the road for an extra four hours than travelling at 140 km/h. An extra four hours driving means driving at night and in this part of the world that really is dangerous.
“It is this Government and nobody else that will inflict speed restrictions on Territorians. If they do so the CLP will oppose those speed restrictions.”
ROAD REPORT BOTH HIT AND MISS
The Territory Opposition has described the long delayed NT Road Safety Taskforce Report Safer Road Use : A Territory Imperative as a mixed bag.
“The Report contains elements I agree with and some recommendations that will never have CLP support as long as I’m involved,” says Fay Miller, Opposition spokesperson on Transport.
“In particular the Opposition will not support the imposition of a speed limit on open sections of the Stuart Highway or the introduction of a demerit point system for traffic offences in the Northern Territory.
“Removing the open speed limit on the Stuart Highway will not tackle the problems with drink driving or the number of people who failed to put on a seat belt before they began their last journey. The statistics on these two causes of deaths on our roads are stark in nearly 50% of road fatalities alcohol was a contributing factor and more than 50% of the time people weren’t wearing a seat belt.
“That’s why the Opposition has announced tough measures to curb drink driving and to get everybody in the car to belt up before the journey begins.
“The Opposition are committed to a case by case analysis of the causes of road accidents and a measured response to each of the causes identified.
“I was also surprised to find a number of factual errors in the Report.
“The Report states that there are no speed limits for P-plate drivers on the open sections of the Stuart Highway, that’s incorrect, a maximum 100km/ph speed limit applies to P-plate drivers in the Territory. (See report page 94 & compare with Sect 14 Traffic Regulations)
“The Report also claims that children under 12 months of age are permitted to be in cars unrestrained. That is a selective quote and it misrepresents the reality of the situation to the point that it is misleading. The circumstances in which that can occur are extremely prescriptive and are rarely if ever used. (See Traffic Regulation 5).
“Road accident statistics are best understood over an extended time period. Stats from day to day, week to week, even year to year, can quite be misleading; the long-term trend should be basis of any decision made.”
Message from Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion
Country Liberal Party Senator for the Territory
Minister for Community Services
Deputy Leader of the National Party in the Senate
I am a politician. Because I am on the other side of the fence politically to the Northern Territory Government, some will see it as my job to protest the changes to the road rules in the Territory. Some will view this posting as political opportunism. Those who read this and know me will understand that I am a straight shooter.
Yes, too many people die on Territory roads every year. Even the police call them crashes – because very few are accidents. Tragically, too many fatalities in the Territory every year are more suicide than anything else because they are a result of people who shouldn’t be behind the wheel doing exactly that. Alcohol, fatigue, no seat belts, not driving to the conditions, unroadworthy or overloaded vehicles – and yes, in some cases, speed. In a lot of the fatalities, several of those factors are mixed in a tragic, lethal cocktail and often, the victim is not the offender.
Anybody who has spent much time in the Territory has seen it all before. Yes, there are some who drive too fast. Most of those people aren’t doing it on the open roads – they’re doing it on the fringes of the urban areas, usually late at night, often doing something else they shouldn’t be doing.
When a government introduces measures as unpopular as these new laws, it is easy to point the finger and say “revenue raising”. At first blush, these laws do take that appearance. I don’t know the reason behind them. I do believe they are flawed, and based on a report that raises as many questions as it purports to answer. The motivation behind the report is also questionable, as is the complete lack of public input.
You simply can’t base what happens on Territory roads on what happens elsewhere. The conditions are different; the roads are different; the drivers are different. In saying that, I fervently believe most Territorians are outstanding drivers in Territory conditions – and the vast majority are highly responsible.
Yes, some of the changes are warranted. Too many people run red lights; far too many drink and drive, or may be under the influence of other drugs. Too many don’t wear seatbelts, talk on their mobiles while driving or go to sleep on the roads.
It is unfair to divide the debate on racial lines. It is fair, however, to look at the statistics and address the problem areas. It is also repugnant to compare the figures from so far this year to other years as a measure of the success or otherwise of the new laws. Every road death is a tragedy, especially for the familes and friends left behind.
Have the new laws – particularly the one pertaining to the open speed limit – made the Stuart Highway potentially more dangerous? Absolutely. Fatigue must become a factor in more crashes, plus by necessity there will be more people driving dangerous stretches at night. Try driving between Ti Tree and Alice Springs at night at 130 and see how far you go before you hit a mob of roos. But because the limit is now 130, how many people who aren’t used to driving at that speed, in unfamiliar conditions especially, try to do exactly that?
Yes, I desperately want to revive the Cannonball Run – and it will happen, as soon as the government changes. And it will change. Nobody rules forever (as the CLP demonstrates). Yes, I like fast cars – but the Cannonball is about tourism and massive economic benefits for the whole Territory, not Senator Nigel getting his jollies by borrowing a flash car and driving it like he stole it.
Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend next week’s rally due to government business in Canberra. I will be there in spirit, as I believe some of the new laws are unjust, unfair and questionable.
I wish to thank everyone else who is doing their part in this matter. Whoever is in government, whatever political persuasion you are, if something happens that you think affects you and is unjust you have a right to protest peacefully and make your feelings known.
That is called democracy.
In the interests of democracy, I proudly have a “Remember open speed limits – forget Labor” sticker on the back window of my Canberra car. It’s certainly been noticed in the Ministerial car park.
Good luck – and fight the good fight. Do it peacefully and legally and you will dominate the moral high ground. That ground is there for the taking, because I don’t believe flash advertising campaigns that implicate all Territorians based on a questionable report inspired by even more questionable political ends to be a really Territory thing to do.