The call by a Wodonga councillor to raise the speed limit on the Hume Freeway from 110 km/h to 140 km/h has certainly sparked debate amongst Border Mail readers.
Liberal Democrats party member Tim Quilty says the current Hume Freeway limit is outdated, given the safety features of modern vehicles. He might be right in saying cars are much safer these days, and “built to drive faster”. Unfortunately the accidents we see on our roads have never really been about the safety features of the cars people are driving. It has, and always will be, about the person sitting in the driver’s seat.
All the safety features in the world don’t make it a good idea to drive on the Hume Freeway at 140km/h.
People who argue for higher speed limits on our freeways often draw on the German experience to support their case, citing unlimited speeds and a lack of accidents. But it’s hardly a reasonable comparison. Australia is about 22 times the size of Germany. We have no fast rail to transport us – or our food and freight – and flying from regional cities is often financially prohibitive. It’s no coincidence more people die on country roads … driving is often our only way to get anywhere.
Footy fans on the Border think nothing of hopping in the car and driving the 300-odd kilometres it takes to get to a game in Melbourne. When the game is over, it’s back behind the wheel for the drive home. Six or seven hours driving, to catch a game of footy.
Cr Quilty’s point that Australia has a “mentality to drive slower” is an interesting one. The police might have a different perspective, backed up by the number of people they see speeding. Try driving from the Border to Melbourne or Sydney right on 110km/h, and count how many cars overtake you.
A speed limit of 110km/h doesn’t meant 110km/h to many. It means 115 km/h, maybe 120 km/h. Just a little bit over, but not so much that you’ll get booked. At a limit of 140km/h, you can bet people will be driving at 145km/h, or 150km/h. These speeds are simply not suited to our roads or the environment in which we live. There are no kangaroos on the Autobahn.