A survey is asking whether Western Australian road limits should be lowered by 10km/hr.
A survey is asking whether Western Australian road limits should be lowered by 10km/hr.

‘Tell ‘em they’re dreamin’: 10km/h slower in WA?

ONE of the classic Yes Minister episodes revealed how an official with a point to make - in this case Sir Humphrey Appleby - can design a public survey to get the result he wants.

Sir Humphrey asked a perplexed junior, Bernard Woolley two series of questions that brought his assistant to directly opposite opinions.

I discovered a similar survey a week or so ago, when Western Australians were invited by the Road Safety Commission to complete a public survey on the blanket proposal to reduce all speed limits by 10km/h.

The initiative was called Project Zero, and came packaged with reams of statistics illustrating the objectives of the committee.

The survey was the classic, and I'm paraphrasing the question, "How many deaths do you choose for WA," followed by a simple choice of either a few hundred or many more.

The "push" question seemed designed to tip responders over the edge of supporting the committee's singular focus to lower all speed limits.

A large measure of guilt was assured for those who chose the larger number of dead and dying so they could keep speed limits as they are.

There was little opportunity to express a view on the value of many other road safety measures that need more urgent attention, nor on the implacable truth that many deaths and injuries result from the bad behaviour of people who never pay attention to speed limits anyway.

Cam Dumesny, CEO of the Western Roads Federation did a ring around of some of his members and got a variety of perspectives on the singular theme of "It's a bad idea."

Most industry figures underlined the inadequate driver training regime that currently exists in WA.

But one operator noted that the accuracy of truck speedometers compared to cars would lead to further frustration as the two mingle on highways.

Others noted that bringing all limits down to the same level would eliminate the speed differential between cars and trucks, and cause additional impatience with car drivers stuck behind heavy vehicles.

According to Goldstar Transport's Sean Carren, the idea earned a time-honoured response; "Tell 'em they're dreamin."

Sean's persistent mantra is driver education linked to a formal requirement for periodic ongoing training, and even testing, similar to professional development hours essential to the professions.

"Far more is at stake," he said, hinting at the potential of anything up to 120-tonnes travelling at up to 100km/h.

He noted that the Road Traffic Act, which is still in force, was born in the early 70s, and instigated the 12 demerit point limit for bad behaviour.

That limit, and the rules surrounding it haven't changed since, despite dramatic changes in truck technology, and huge increases in population and congestion.

But more importantly, with the size and momentum of modern trucks, plus the compexity of their systems, the driver's required skill set is broader than ever, and a complete review is needed of driver training, testing and licensing.

As for the blanket reduction, WA Premier Mark McGowan has killed it for now. "I don't support that," was his succint response. But the narrative on education must continue.

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