Soon after the Northern Territory Government introduced speed limits on its highways, the territory has recorded its worst road toll in a decade, prompting calls for limits to be scrapped.
Despite introducing a 130km/h limit for the region’s four main highways – the Stuart, Arnhem, Barkly and Victoria – and implementing a demerit point system, fatalities in 2007 have climbed to 57.
The toll has increased from 44 in the same period last year, and 35 in 2004. A report in 2006 found that NT roads had a death rate three times that of the rest of the country, which prompted the Government to slap limits on major highways in a knee-jerk reaction.
But with the road toll now worse, the opposition Country Liberal Party (CLP) said it was time for new NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson to reverse the controversial changes.
According to Australia Associate Press, a statement by CLP transport spokeswoman Fay Miller included data suggesting that drink drivers and people not wearing seat belts were the main reason for road fatalities – not speed.
“Now the evidence is in. (Mr) Henderson has the option of correcting a mistake of his predecessor and get rid of the open road speed limit. The opposition was highly sceptical that Territory Labor’s attack on our way of life would have a positive impact on the road toll,” said Ms Miller. “It is a great shame that one of the qualities that made the Territory unique has been sacrificed without an obvious benefit.
“Making such a far-reaching change to the character of the Territory on a hunch was reckless policy making.”