The Mail examines road safety across Western Australia

Deadly roads: Eighty-three people have been killed on Western Australian roads so far this year - almost one death every two days. Photo: Shutterstock.
Deadly roads: Eighty-three people have been killed on Western Australian roads so far this year - almost one death every two days. Photo: Shutterstock.

Less than six months in and 2019 has already been a tragic year on the roads with the second-highest number of fatalities to the date in the past decade.

Eighty-three people have been killed on Western Australian roads so far this year - almost one death every two days.

Alarmingly, 46 of those deaths occurred on regional roads.

The highest road toll up to June 11 in recent years was 84 in 2016 and before that, the next closest was 79 in 2011.

Most recently, a 21-year-old man was killed in a crash in Meelon on June 2. The man was riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle with five others motorcyclists about 1pm when he failed tonegotiate a sweeping right hand curve at the corner of Coolup Road East and Burnside Road.

The rider left the road before striking a culvert and a tree and died at the scene as a result of his injuries.

On April 24, a 26-year-old Eaton man died in a fatal crash in Waroona. The man was a front seat passenger in a Kia Rio when it veered onto the incorrect side of the South Western Highway before crashing into a light pole.

The driver, a 30-year-old woman, sustained minor injuries but the man died at the scene as a result of his injuries.

On February 28, a 30-year-old man was killed in a crash along Mungulup Road near Collie after the car he was driving left the road and struck a large embankment.

About 10.50pm, the car rolled several times causing the driver to be ejected from the vehicle. He received critical injuries and died at the scene.

Road trauma, whether it be fatalities or serious injuries, has a ripple affect on the community.

The loss of a highly respected member of the WA basketball community and father-of-two Anthony Exeter sent shockwaves through much of the state after a freak road accident claimed his life in January.

Mr Exeter was driving on Bussell Highway near Ludlow with his wife and two children when a boat canopy from the vehicle in front detached and went through his windscreen.

He was flown to Royal Perth Hospital but suffered brain damage and passed away after his life support was turned off.

Every year motorists are reminded to "drive safely" by authorities, but still the numbers climb - this year marking a significant spike in the road toll.

Road Safety Council chairman Iain Cameron said deaths on regional roads were over represented in the statistics.

"These aren't just numbers, these are all people with families who are now grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one," he said.

Mr Cameron said, unfortunately, the most common kind of serious crash on regional roads was single vehicles running off the side of the road.

"The majority of these crashes are most likely to involve distraction, inattention, driving tired while speeding and drink and drug driving are also contributing factors," he said.

"A run off road crash at 100 or 110km/h can result in life-altering injuries or death, while the same crash in the metropolitan area at a speed of 50 or 60 km/h may have lesser consequences for the people involved.

"Risk-taking behaviours such as speeding and drink driving still contribute to road trauma in WA, but about 70 per cent of all serious crashes now involve someone making a mistake such as a momentary lapse in concentration or driving tired.

"We need to avoid complacency, be aware of the role fatigue, inattention and distraction play in road trauma and take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe journey."

In response to the road toll, the WA government has implemented a number of initiatives in an effort to address the disproportionately high road toll in regional areas.

A dedicated high patrol unit for regional roads to target unsafe driving behaviours, the Regional Enforcement Unit, joined police operations in January 2018.

An additional 25 police officers were recruited for the specialist traffic squad, with that number boosted by another 14 in February.

Road safety minister Michelle Roberts said there are also more police on major country roads.

"But we need everyone to play their part by considering their own behaviour behind the wheel," she said.

"Road safety is everyones responsibility and if we all make a commitment to drive so others survive, then we can work together to reduce death and injury on our roads and prevent more families experiencing the tragedy of road trauma."

The government has also confirmed funding for improvements on a number of roads in the Peel region and South-West as part of a $500 million upgrade of regional roads around the state.

Industry Road Safety Alliance South-West project manager Sarah Stanley said it was a tragic reality that so many lives had already been lost on WA roads in 2019.

"Every serious injury or death on our roads is one too many," she said.

"The consequences are felt by family, friends and workmates for many years, especially in tight-knit communities like the South-West."

The Road Safety Alliance brings together community, industry, and government to address road safety issues in the regional area bounded by Greater Bunbury, Collie, Boddington, and Pinjarra.

They act as a conduit of information as well as a road safety advocate that raises awareness about road safety risks and opportunities in an effort to improve road safety outcomes for all users.

Ms Stanley, who is also Shire of Collie president, said she believed mistakes on the road "shouldn't have to end in serious injury or death".

"Design improvements such as improved intersections, shoulder sealing, median widening and audible edge strips can mean the difference between life and death on regional and remote roads," she said.

"We also aim to educate road users on the consequences of unsafe actions, such as speeding and distracted driving, so everyone can return home safely to their loved ones."