WA road toll already high in 2019

DEADLY ROADS: Eighty-four people have been killed on West Australian roads so far this year - almost one death every two days. Photo: Shutterstock.
DEADLY ROADS: Eighty-four people have been killed on West Australian roads so far this year - almost one death every two days. Photo: Shutterstock.

Six months in and 2019 has already been a tragic year on Western Australia's regional roads, with fatalities an all-too regular occurrence.

Eighty-four people have been killed on West Australian roads so far this year - almost one death every two days. Alarmingly, 47 of those deaths occurred on regional roads.

The highest road toll up to June 16 in recent years was 87 in 2016 and before that, the next closest was 83 in 2011.

Twelve lives have been lost on the road in the South-West so far this year - the most of any region in WA. This is closely followed by 11 in the Great Southern and nine in the Wheatbelt. Four people have died on the roads in Esperance and the Goldfields region.

Road Safety Council chairman Iain Cameron said deaths on regional roads were over represented in the statistics.

"These aren't just numbers, these are all people with families who are now grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one," he said.

Mr Cameron said, unfortunately, the most common kind of serious crash on regional roads was single vehicles running off the side of the road.

"The majority of these crashes are most likely to involve distraction, inattention, driving tired while speeding and drink and drug driving are also contributing factors," he said.

"A run off road crash at 100 or 110km/h can result in life-altering injuries or death, while the same crash in the metropolitan area at a speed of 50 or 60 km/h may have lesser consequences for the people involved," he said.

"Risk-taking behaviours such as speeding and drink driving still contribute to road trauma in WA, but about 70 per cent of all serious crashes now involve someone making a mistake.

"We need to avoid complacency, be aware of the role fatigue, inattention and distraction play in road trauma and take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe journey."

In response to the road toll, the WA government has implemented a number of initiatives in an effort to address the disproportionately high percentage in regional areas.

A dedicated high patrol unit for regional roads to target unsafe driving behaviours, the Regional Enforcement Unit, joined police operations in January 2018 with an additional 40 police officers now working for the specialist traffic squad.

Road safety minister Michelle Roberts said there were also more police on major country roads.

"But we need everyone to play their part by considering their own behaviour behind the wheel," she said.

"Road safety is everyone's responsibility and if we all make a commitment to drive so others survive, then we can work together to reduce death and injury on our roads and prevent more families experiencing the tragedy of road trauma."

Industry Road Safety Alliance South-West project manager Sarah Stanley said it was a tragic reality that so many lives had already been lost on WA roads in 2019 but believed mistakes on the road "shouldn't have to end in serious injury or death".

"Every serious injury or death on our roads is one too many," she said.

"Design improvements such as improved intersections, median widening and audible edge strips can mean the difference between life and death on regional and remote roads.

"We also aim to educate road users on the consequences of unsafe actions, such as speeding, so everyone can return home safely to their loved ones."