The Morrison Government has undertaken to establish an Office of Road Safety if re-elected, a small but important step that is long overdue.
The move follows a devastating independent review last year of the government’s National Road Safety Strategy, which listed a litany of problems with the national approach to reducing road trauma.
The new body would “provide a national point for collaboration and leadership on key road safety priorities, working closely with states, territories, local government, and key road safety stakeholders”, said Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Minister Michael McCormack.
Also included will be $12 million on a new Road Safety Innovation Fund “to support research and development in priority areas such as regional road safety, driver distraction from mobile devices, protecting vulnerable road users and reducing drug driving”.
Although a modest sum, this is an important recognition of emerging priorities.
Some parts of Australia have seen massive growth of bike and pedestrians numbers on streets that were designed for car dominance and are not fit for current purpose.
Distracted driving is not a new phenomenon, but is having tragic consequences on a daily basis, with little in the way of a coordinated national approach to deal with it.
The Federal Government also promised boost to the Roads to Recovery program includes $1.1 billion in funding for local government.
“More than a thousand Australians died on our roads last year,” PM Scott Morrison said. “That’s devastating. These are mums who didn’t make it home from work, or children that didn’t make it to school.
“These programs mean local councils decide where the money should be spent. They are in the best position to identify black spots and problem areas."
There is also funding for the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiatives (HVSI) program.
Bike riders are well aware of the safety risks of sharing the streets with heavy vehicles, especially during the construction boom currently underway in our major cities.
The Federal Government still has not moved to mandate side underrun protection rails on heavy vehicles. Fortunately, in the face of federal government inaction, many of the major infrastructure projects around the country have compelled contractors to fit the safety devices.
There is still much the Federal Government can do to improve conditions for bike riders.