Pass lane cash cuts road risks

Sophia ConstantineNorth West Telegraph
A stretch of road along the Great Northern Highway.
Camera IconA stretch of road along the Great Northern Highway. Credit: The West Australian.

As new figures have been released showing insurance companies forked out more than $22 million in payouts last year as a result of crashes in the Pilbara, the Federal and WA governments have announced an $8 million road safety boost for the region.

The funds allocation is part of a new $55.25 million regional road safety package, with upgrades to include the construction of two passing lanes on the Great Northern Highway between Auski Roadhouse and Port Hedland, and a passing lane on North West Coastal Highway between Karratha and Roebourne.

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel described the upgrades as greatly needed and a critical issue for motorists.

“I’m sure every local knows how rattling it can be to be stuck behind a 60m road train for kilometres on end, with no clear opportunity to overtake,” he said.

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“These road upgrades will be something of great, enduring value.” The upgrades come after the release of the Insurance Commission of Western Australia’s annual report, which outlined 32 new claims and $14.4 million in payments to those injured in car crashes in the Pilbara region in 2017 alone.

However, the annual report showed a decrease in new claims from 36 in 2016 to 32 in 2017, meaning the Pilbara is one of only three regions with a decrease in road crash claims. New claim numbers peaked in 2013 at 60, showing a steady decline since.

An ICWA spokeswoman said in the past 10 years, Pilbara crash claims and injuries had remained relatively consistent, with minimal trends becoming apparent.

“When looking at the type of person most likely injured in crashes in the Pilbara, the top four over the 10 years are drivers, passengers, pedestrians and motorcyclists — consistent with the overall breakdown across the State,” she said.

Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the areas for the new safety funding were chosen based on an assessment of crash risk and road safety audits.

“From the Great Southern region to the Pilbara, we are improving safety and boosting freight efficiency for regional industries by delivering more accessible roads for heavy vehicles,” he said.

He said the upgrades were a commitment to safer roads to reduce the number of fatal crashes and serious injuries. Last year, one person was killed on WA roads every two days on average — the worst road fatality rate in eight years, RAC data revealed.

General manager corporate affairs Will Golsby said the funding acknowledged the urgent need to address the devastating impact of road trauma in regional WA.

“Over the past five years alone, road trauma has cost the WA economy more than $2.8 billion,” he said.

“What can’t be measured is the social cost of the tragedy of road trauma.

“For the families and loved ones of those killed or injured on our roads, the impacts last a lifetime.”

The upgrades will be undertaken between 2017-18 and 2019-20.

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