The Northern Territory Government is about to decide whether to re-introduce open speed limits on some roads.
An ongoing ‘no-speed limit’ trial on a 200 kilometre section of the Stuart Highway has largely seen motorists behave ‘very well’, and open limits might soon be more widely used.
However, many medical professionals are warning that such a decision will lead to more deaths.
Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, Dr David Read from the Darwin-based Trauma Response Centre, said the Territory’s roads have attracted the lowest of Australian Road Assessment Program safety ratings.
“The NT is unique in many ways and these differences threaten the survival of road accident victims,” Dr Read wrote. “Hospitals and retrieval assets are sparse, resulting in pre-hospital times of many hours.”
He said that light traffic often meant victims might not be found for many hours after an accident. He also said roads were generally single lane and there was a high wandering livestock danger.
Dr Read said that while annual road deaths had fallen from 7.9 to 5.2 per 100,000 people in the period between 2004 and 2013, in the same period the NT has recorded a mean of 21.8 deaths per 100,000.
Open speed limits were common in the NT until 2007 when a maximum speed of 130 kilometres per hour on major highways and 110kph on other rural roads.