There is need for a dramatic change in road safety management in Australia, according to a recently released expert inquiry.
Despite noble intentions, road trauma targets are not being met and the Safe Systems approach, supposedly the backbone of the nations’ road safety strategy, is not being honoured in the field.
The current road injury epidemic and its costs to the economy now and into the future has not been acknowledged, and failing to improve our current situation will result in 12,000 people killed and 360,000 injured at a cost of over $300 billion over the next decade alone.
This horror story emerges from the Inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 conducted this year by a panel of eminent world experts in road safety.
They found that despite all the targets and grand plans, implementation was failing.
“The lack of focus on a harm elimination agenda means that sub-optimal results are unintentionally achieved because some improvement in safety is often regarded as sufficient or is assumed", the report says.
“We accept that we are making the roads, vehicles and users “safer” but frequently miss the opportunity to make them “SAFE” outright.
"The distinction is subtle but vitally important. As part of providing a safe transport system, we must move from a coping mechanism to one that fixes the problem once and for all.”
The report says that governance and accountability failures were hampering the effort.
"While it is true that states, territories and local government play a key role in implementation, it is clear that road safety is a national problem and requires all three levels of government to be an active part of the solution.
"Government also needs to build accountability frameworks for those parties that are also supplying the problem. Vehicle manufacturers and importers need to be a part of the speed management solution, telecommunication companies need to be a part of the distraction solution and electricity providers part of the roadside hazards solution.”
The inquiry does praise the TAC infrastructure initiatives in Victoria and calls for more momentum.
The $100M bicycle and pedestrian safety fund is part of this program, however after three years little of the money has been spent.
Among key actions suggested in the report are:
- Appoint a Cabinet minister with multi-agency authority for managing all road safety.
- Establish a minimum $3 billion a year road safety fund.
- Build on current research and government capabilities in each jurisdiction to implement a ‘safe system’ based crash investigation program. This would sample a cross section of the most harmful crash types from around the nation, including those involving heavy vehicles, emerging vehicle safety technologies and vulnerable road users.
- All levels of government to accelerate matching speed limits with road attributes in accordance with Safe System principles.