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Call to lower country road speeds to 80km/h

Country road

A major road safety summit has suggested speed limits on Australia’s unsealed country road network be reduced from 100km/h to 80km/h.

The suggestion came at a Victorian Road Trauma Summit convened last week, but has been a hobby horse of Victorian Assistant Police Commissioner Doug Fryer for several years as this 2017 video shows.

The summit was told C roads (minor unsealed roads) have the highest number of fatalities.

It is reported there was general agreement that lowering the speed limit on many country roads was the solution to reducing the road toll in regional areas.

However, it must be in partnership with regional communities so they understand the long-term view.

The state government’s summit included experts from the TAC, VicRoads, VicPol, MUARC, RACV, Road Trauma Support Services Victoria and cycling and motorcycle advocates including the Victorian Motorcycle Council and the Motorcycle Expert Advisory Panel.

Other suggestions at the summit included:

Country road limitScrambler Ducati Desert Sled country road

The proposal to reduce speed limits on tens of thousands of kilometres of country road follows a 2018 report by the International Transport Forum that studied data from 10 countries including Australia.

It suggested any country road without a median barrier should have a 70km/h speed limit.

The report found that crashes, injuries and fatalities decreased when speed limits were dropped and speed camera use increased.

According to a scientific formula, it showed that every 1% increase in average speed resulted in a 2% increase in all injury crashes, a 3% rise in fatal and severe crashes and 4% more fatal crashes. 

It not only recommended the 70km/h rural roads speed limit, but also 30km/h in city streets with high pedestrian use and 50km/h on urban roads.

Their recommended speed limits are based on the “Safe System” principles that speed should be set “at a level that humans can survive without dramatic consequences in case of a crash”.

The report also noted that “lower driving speeds generally improve citizens’ quality of life, especially in urban areas”. They also reduce emissions, fuel consumption and noise, it said.

Reducing speed limits on rural roads to 70km/h may be understandable in some densely populated countries.

But in our sprawling nation, it would bring our transport system and our economy to a halt.

It may also sound the death knell for motorcycling as many riders concerned about the heavy use of speed cameras have sold their sports bikes and bought adventure bikes to explore the more remote country road network.

Australian case studyMCCNSW Steve Pearce submission to Ombudsman over Oxley highway speed rural

The Australian case study was based on data from 1997 to 2003 where urban speed limits dropped from 60km/h to 50km/h (except in the Northern Territory) and speed camera use increased.

It found that the mean speed decreased by 0.5km/h, while the total number of crashes decreased by 25.3% and the number of persons injured by 22.3%.

There were differences between states:

  • NSW mean speed reduction of 0.5-0.9km/h resulted in a 22% casualty crash reduction;
  • Victoria 2-3km/h reduction resulted in a 12% reduction;
  • Perth 0.3km/h led t a 21% drop;
  • Regional Western Australia 3km/h – 16%;
  • South Australia: 3.8km/h and 2.1km/h drop on unchanged arterials ed to a 23% crash drop; and
  • Queensland there was no relevant crash data for the 6km/h mean speed drop.

The study also found that the reductions in the proportions of vehicles exceeding 60, 70 and 80km/h speed limits were more substantial than the reduction in mean speed.

It accredited this to strong enforcement of urban speed limit reductions.

Covert camerasKiwi fixed speed camera satellite rural

The study also suggested that covert speed cameras were most effective in cash reduction, based mainly on statistics from Victoria which leads the country in speed camera revenue:

Looking at severe crashes, the covert use of mobile speed cameras in Victoria, Australia, has been shown to be very effective in reducing injury crashes and fatal outcomes (Cameron and Delaney, 2008). Recent research has also shown that only 7% of injury crashes in Melbourne are now attributable to high-level speeding, compared with 24-34% in other Australian major cities where mobile cameras are operated less effectively (Cameron, 2015).


  1. The summit’s conclusions were probably decided months ago. It only took a while to make the statistics add up the way they wanted.

  2. Most dangerous thing on country roads is the locals, They have a certain sense of entitlement and will ignore whatever speed limit you put on the road. Does anyone really believe the police will take resources from high income main roads to low volume dirt roads?…Whenever i am on one of these backroads i approach crests and blind corners with extreme caution

  3. More sped cameras aye? Such a novel idea is sure to work NOT!
    I wonder if all the data for these conclusions was collected by someone with shares in speed camera companies?
    I have tried to read some of these studies to verify their conclusions and often they contain statistical tools that are the equivalent of pulling numbers out of their arse .
    Basically any report that supports speed cameras and massive speed reductions is not to be believed as they are the very definition of BS.

  4. What I dont understand is why a lot of the sealed country roads are also being reduced to 80 (or less)!

  5. Hmm, I’ve just ridden across Texas USA. Limit 75mph (120kmh), but at lest 95% of traffic moves at 80 to 90mph. Cruising at 75 I have been overtaken by single trailer trucks doing 85. And are constantly overtaken by SUVs.
    The article is arrant nonsense not to be taken seriously, its total rubbish.

  6. No need to reduce speed limit – ride/drive to the conditions. Those whom wish to speed will do so regardless of speed limits imposed.
    Need Government to get out of our lives – you cannot reduce road fatal statistics to zero.

  7. 80kph won’t work. How about walking pace. No how about banning motor vehicles and everyone back to horse and cart. Now that would be progress. No wait then there would be no income from random road tax collected from speed cameras and they would have to raise taxes. No this isn’t working. How about everyone drive to conditions, that would be a novel idea.

  8. … as soon as they suggest wire rope barriers it is clear that motorcycle safety isn’t even on the agenda.

    Consultation with the community? I guess there is a first time for everything, but we know what they mean by ‘consultation’ and it isn’t consultation.

    So many unsolved crimes, and here are these ‘road safety experts’ wasting away scraping unskilled people off the road and claiming the slower they go the less it will happen – really? of course. Make them walk, problem solved. When they don’t have the foggiest what the problem is, its little wonder they are clueless on the answer.

    The real issue is skill – we insist people do lots of hours but is there quality training? real training? reassessment? – there is in the workplace (sometimes), why not on the road where currently any mug can get a driver licence. Of course it’s too hard and there would be a “call for easier licencing …” – call indeed …

  9. “The study also suggested that covert speed cameras were most effective in cash reduction, based mainly on statistics from Victoria which leads the country in speed camera revenue”

    I don’t think there has been any CASH reduction in Victoria of it leads the country in revenue!

  10. It won’t be long before people have enough and start trashing all the speed cameras.

    1. It happened in England. Check out the acronym BAD. Authorities eventually had to reduce the number of cameras as the number of rear end accidents increased. Too many people fixated with their speedo rather than what’s in front of them.

  11. There were differences between states:
    NSW mean speed reduction of 0.5-0.9km/h resulted in a 22% casualty crash reduction;
    Victoria 2-3km/h reduction resulted in a 12% reduction;
    Perth 0.3km/h led t a 21% drop;
    Regional Western Australia 3km/h – 16%;
    South Australia: 3.8km/h and 2.1km/h drop on unchanged arterials ed to a 23% crash drop; and
    Queensland there was no relevant crash data for the 6km/h mean speed drop.

    So just looking at that data should be setting off alarm bells, 0.3kmh and a 21% drop. There will be a set of data under this that tells the true story these headline numbers are not it.

  12. NO!
    Should the salary of those that come up with these suggestions be lowered?

  13. The boy racers who commonly complain here about speed limits and speed cameras really ought to grow up.

    The laws of physics are inexorable, the higher the crash speed the greater the impact.
    In normal circumstances, the time difference in reaching a destination at 80ks versus 100ks is minimal.
    At 80ks cornering, braking and other mistakes are less critical, so we’re more likely to arrive unscathed.
    Being more relaxed at 80ks means we will certainly arrive less stressed.

    Assistant Commissioner Fryer is right – and why should his people have to pick up the pieces when some drongo imagines he (usually a male) has a right to ride/drive like a twat!

    1. Boy racers should take a course at the Phillip Island Superbike School. It worked for me, best fun ever. It also made me slow down on the road, because I learned that the road is so much more dangerous.
      However, having learned to drive properly, with years in a car club, bikes at an early illegal age and unlimited speed restrictions on country roads, I think low speed limits are just wrong. Driving slowly is boring and will make more people fall asleep. It opens up the mind to distractions like mobile phones, music with headphones, and even movies on screen.

      1. Don’t crash! Simples
        If that means you lower your speed because your skill set is not good enough, so be it.
        The problem is most do not know their limits, or if the do , ignore them.
        Toby Price would do twice that speed, and would not crash, even if he did, he knows how to.
        The ONLY solution is the improve road craft drastically, practical and theoretical, by teaching how to move at 100mph, yes miles, on a proper track and under proper supervision, not uncle Bob.

  14. The statistics given are manipulated to suit the desired outcome. Linking tiny speed reductions such as 0.9 km/h to a 22% crash reduction is flawed.
    The most likely “reasons” for a 22% crash reduction, are modern vehicle technology ad advancements (with improved safety features) as well as main road improvements.
    Older vehicles that lack handling & braking features of newer vehicles are decreasing every year. 10yrs ago the majority of vehicles didn’t have ABS. Today that statistic has reversed.

  15. So much of what police spokesmen have to say is riddled with second agendas and distortions of stats to “support” the theories . However the speed limits on non tarmacked roads is not so ridiculous , having grown up driving where bitumen was a rarity I will state , without tolerance of counter argument, that on most roads it is not really possible to do a sustained 100km/hr and that on those sections where it is possible the driver rarely has adequate control.
    Most people driving on dirt roads would probably not even reach 80km/hour

    1. Nobody has mentioned SUSTAINED speeds and they have nothing to do with speed limits. Although on many straight dirt roads it is safe to drive well over 80 kph or even twice that if you know what you’re doing. I learned to drive well in rallies where the AVERAGE speed was often set at the limit of 48mph/ 77kph on narrow dirt roads. This required speeds from 0 to 100 mph or more if the car would do it, most couldn’t. The average car of the 70’s had a third of the power and handling of those of today. So perhaps there is just too much power in the hands of drivers who have no idea how to handle it.
      It seems that you and many others want to introduce rules to try to save the worst, poorest, most easily distracted and slowest driver’s in the country.

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