Jumbo road safety message

Rueben HaleThe West Australian

A life-sized elephant sculpture has appeared on Wheatbelt roads to start the road safety conversation.

This week, RAC launched the next stage of a five-year campaign to highlight the Wheatbelt's unacceptable road safety record by committing $3 million to raise awareness of the impact of road trauma in the community.

Executive general manager Pat Walker said the Wheatbelt's road fatality rate was consistently and significantly higher than the rest of WA.

"In 2014, the Wheatbelt road fatality rate was 11 times the Perth metropolitan rate, six times the State rate and twice nearby regions. We need to start talking about the elephant in the room," he said.

As part of the launch in Northam, RAC unveiled the sculpture made out of crashed cars.

"During the past two weeks, the elephant has visited several Wheatbelt towns and was built to drive community discussion about how the Wheatbelt community, road safety bodies, police, local business and governments can all work together to help save lives on the road and stop serious injuries," Mr Walker said.

He said last year, one person died on WA roads every two days, and nowhere was this fatality rate worse than the Wheatbelt.

"Part of this campaign will also focus on breaking down myths and misconceptions about what is happening over the past few years on regional roads, and replacing these with facts," he said.

A review commissioned by RAC to investigate factors that may be contributing to the disproportionately high number of fatal road crashes in the Wheatbelt found there was no single issue that differentiated this area from any other part of regional WA.

However, last year 65 per cent of crashes in the Wheatbelt were attributed to deliberate driver choices, such as speed, drink driving and inattention.

In addition, one in three Wheatbelt road victims did not wear a seatbelt and more than 70 per cent of fatalities were single vehicle run-offs.

"We all have a role to play in addressing the Wheatbelt's road safety record and real change starts with the individual, and must be supported by the community as a whole," Mr Walker said.

"Last year, an independent audit commissioned by RAC and carried out by OPUS International Consulting of three Wheatbelt roads with high crash rates found installing low-cost road safety measures could reduce crashes and potentially save lives."

After the launch, Member for Central Wheatbelt Mia Davies said the Nationals supported using Royalties for Regions money to address issues of road trauma in the Wheatbelt.

"While investment in hard infrastructure is part of the solution, the statistics point to Wheatbelt people making poor choices when we get behind the wheel and we do it more than anywhere else in the State," Ms Davies said.

"My colleagues and I have been meeting with the RAC to discuss the possibility of funding through Royalties for Regions to support initiatives aimed at reducing trauma on our roads in the Wheatbelt."

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