The Wheatbelt’s unacceptably high road fatality rate is like the elephant in the room – it has a heavy presence but no one’s talking about it.

Although it has devastated so many in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt community, it is a subject that has proved difficult to raise. It continues to confound experts and analysts who, despite having all the facts, are unable to find the answers.

Last year the road fatality rate in the Wheatbelt was more than five times the overall state rate and 10 times the metropolitan rate.

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 factor that differentiated this region from nearby regions or any other regional area in WA.

So what’s going on in the Wheatbelt? The subject of the Wheatbelt’s unacceptably high road fatality rate is like the elephant in the room.

While the number of fatalities and serious injuries speak volumes and the impact of road trauma on the community is devastating, real and deeply felt, the issue is rarely mentioned. In many cases, there is simply silence. In order to start a long-overdue discussion, RAC has embarked on a campaign to break that silence.

Using Elephantthe bodies of wrecked cars we’ve created a massive elephant, measuring three metres’ high and four metres’ long.

The elephant is a symbol of the unacceptable silence and inaction on road safety in the Wheatbelt. It was built to motivate community engagement and discussion about how we can all work together as a community to help save lives on the road. Part of this work will focus on breaking down myths and misconceptions about what is happening on regional roads and replacing these with facts.

Between 2007 and 2012 almost one in three deaths of drivers or passengers in the Wheatbelt occurred in crashes where vehicle occupants were not wearing a seatbelt.

There is a view that regional roads are more dangerous at night where in fact almost two in every three fatalities in the Wheatbelt occurred in daylight hours (6am-6pm), well above the metropolitan rate of around one in two.

There is also a misconception that visitors who drive on regional roads are more likely to crash than locals as they are unfamiliar with those roads, but tragically two out of three road deaths in the Wheatbelt were drivers from the local area, and more than 70 per cent of fatalities recorded in the Wheatbelt involved only one vehicle.

RAC has embarked on this landmark campaign in order to start an important conversation about road safety in the Wheatbelt, to raise awareness about what is really happening on Wheatbelt roads and to begin the process of working directly with the community to implement real strategies that will help save lives.

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