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Tougher laws on table as pedestrian, motorcyclist deaths rise

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Heavier penalties for drink-drivers and mobile phone use behind the wheel will be considered by the State Government at a “crisis forum” it has called for tomorrow, to tackle a rising road toll marked by a spike in pedestrian, motorcyclist and truck driver deaths.

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Police and Emergency Services Minister Corey Wingard called the summit to address an “unacceptable” surge in SA road fatalities.

The state’s road toll to midnight Monday stood at 45, compared with 28 last year, with an average 30 deaths a year between 2014-18.

Representatives from SA Police, Transport Department, the Centre for Automotive Safety Research, MFS, CFS, RAA, regional MPs and Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephan Knoll are expected to attend the forum.

Wingard said the forum will consider many aspects of what can be done to prevent trauma on our roads.

“Stronger enforcement to tackle driver distraction – including mobile phone use – will be canvassed, as well as the implications of a tougher stance on drink-driving,” he told InDaily in a statement.

“Initiatives to increase pedestrian, heavy vehicle and motorcyclist safety, due to a high number of deaths in each category, will be raised.

“Any suggested strategies to come from the forum will be seriously considered, but would also have to be evidence-based and all the unintended consequences explored. However I am open to considering implementing any such strategies if they would save lives on our roads.”

DPTI figures show that 14 car or light vehicle drivers have died so far this year, compared with 12 last year and 16 in 2017.

But heavy vehicle driver fatalities have risen to six for the year, compared with a maximum of 2 going back to 2014.

And ten motorcyclists have died so far this year – compared with 2 last year and 5 in 2017.

Eight pedestrians have died, compared with a maximum of three back to 2014, when the number spiked at 6.

17 road deaths occurred in the greater Adelaide area, up from six last year and 12 in 2017, while the 27 deaths in rural SA are well up on the 22 in 2018, and 15 in 2017.

Older road users comprised the vast majority of those killed on the roads to date.

While eight people were aged between 16 and 29, the 30 to 90-plus age group contributed the other 38 victims.

Of those, nine were aged 40-49, with eight aged 30-39.

Wingard said on Monday that he was ” open to hearing the experts’ views on tough news road laws, which may inconvenience motorists but would save lives”.

While current road safety campaigns were considered effective in raising awareness, he was “quite willing to back-up that campaign with tough new laws against people who are choosing to ignore that message and decide to drive dangerously regardless”.

“I look forward to hearing the expert panel’s views on this, as well as opening up the floor to other strategies as they may raise.”

Wingard did not address a question from InDaily about what strategy might be considered to lower the rising number of pedestrian deaths.

It was also not clear how potentially toughening SA’s already significant speed detection regime and penalties might address the increased number of motorcyclist fatalities.

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