It is a frightening statistic, but in New South Wales if you drive on country roads, you are four times more likely to die in a crash than in a metropolitan area.

As Rural Road Safety Week kicked off, Deputy Prime Minister, Federal Nationals Leader and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said regional Australians were over-represented in road deaths and injuries.

“Even though we make up around a quarter of Australia’s population, regional Australians make up more than half of the deaths across the nation,” Mr McCormack said. “Rural Road Safety Week is an opportunity for our regional communities to stop and reflect on the part we can all play in keeping people safe on our country roads.

“This includes never driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, scanning the road ahead, knowing your limits and planning ahead, taking regular breaks on long drives, never driving through floodwater, being alert for wildlife and livestock and driving to the conditions.

“The Nationals in Government are playing our part by investing $75 billion in a 10-year infrastructure pipeline, funding of thousands of upgrades to deliver safer roads through measures such as installing additional overtaking lanes, duplicating key transport routes, upgrading intersections and fixing crash hot spots under initiatives such as the Black Spot Program.”

NSW Nationals Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey said it was time we dispelled the commonly-held belief that it was city people or tourists unfamiliar with regional roads who were most at risk.

“The fact is the majority of drivers and riders involved in fatal crashes on country roads are country residents,” Mrs Pavey said. “Tragically, 250 lives are lost each year in our local, country communities. As a country MP, I know we can take driving on the same roads every day for granted. To think it can’t happen to me is just reckless. We need to be better. This year we have already announced $100 million is being invested in 204 road safety projects across country NSW, with 132 of these projects to be completed in 2018/19.”

Australian Road Safety Foundation CEO and founder Russell White urged Australians – both regional and city-based – to take ownership of their role in reducing the rural road toll.

“Acknowledging that everyday road users have a personal responsibility is the first step and it’s our hope that Rural Road Safety Week will help turn this sentiment into real action,” Mr White said.

Country residents will also notice the NSW Government’s Saving Lives on Country Roads campaign will begin airing once again on regional TV and radio, on outdoor billboards, digital and social media. The campaign urges all drivers to make safer decisions on the roads – to say “Yeah…Nah” to taking risks.

“My message is more a plea – don’t get behind the wheel if you’re tired; don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We can all arrive home safely if we think before we drive,” Mrs Pavey said.

Last year, the Nationals in Government initiated an Inquiry into the effectiveness of the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020. The Inquiry report was received by the Deputy Prime Minister on
September 12, 2018.

On October 4 at the Australasian Road Safety Conference, the Deputy Prime Minister announced a new Review of National Road Safety Governance which was one of the 12 recommendations from the Inquiry report, and this will look at safety on rural roads.

The NSW Nationals in Government announced a record $1.9 billion investment in dedicated road safety initiatives over five years in the State Budget, including $640 million through targeted safety infrastructure upgrades.

Speeding, drink and drug driving, not wearing a seatbelt and fatigue remain the biggest killers on our roads.