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COVID has lessons for road safety

There is a public health crisis in Australia right now that is devastating families and societies, and it's not COVID-19. It's road trauma.

Some 1200 Australians are killed and 44,000 are hospitalised on our roads every year.

And unlike coronavirus, the curve isn't flattening.

Interestingly, you won’t see the clearly presented statistics and the fancy graphs on the TV each night.

There is no informed analysis of numbers, trends, outcomes; no future projections of likely deaths if this or that action is not taken.

And it is not because the media finds COVID-19 a sexier crisis than road trauma.

Scandalously, the reason is that the statistics we need just aren’t being collected and analysed.

We have had decades to get a handle on road trauma data, and failed. But just months into the latest epidemic Australia has brilliantly collected, measured, analysed and forecast just about everything you would want to know about the impact of the coronavirus.

This acute observation has been made by a group of Australia’s leading transport and medical organisations.

In a joint submission to the Federal Government, the 13 organisations have lashed the failure of the Commonwealth to deliver on the commitment to bring the nation’s road trauma statistics up to standard.

Signatories include the Australian College of Road Safety, Roads Australia, The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and the Australian Automobile Association.

They have urged the government to learn the lessons of COVID-19 and apply them to the development of the new National Road Safety Strategy, to come into force next year.

"One of the great successes of Australia’s response to COVID-19 is that, within a matter of weeks, there has been an ability to collect and provide almost real-time, standardised data at a granular level on a wide range of indicators,” the submission says.

“The Department of Health’s reporting of aggregated data from states and territories across a range of measures has been truly commendable.

"It has meant the public has access to real-time data on indicators such as infection rates, recovery and death data, hospitalisation, ICU admissions and testing undertaken.

"Unfortunately, as seen in the chart below, it is in stark contrast to the collecting and reporting of road safety data, despite governments across Australia having committed to these indicators being key measures of the NRSS signed almost ten years ago."

"Australia has placed timely data collection, aggregation and reporting at the forefront of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We believe there are some fundamental principles which have guided Australia’s data response which should be applied to road safety and embedded in the next NRSS,” the submission says.

The submission argues that the national commitment by state and federal governments to flatten the curve of the coronavirus should have a parallel in road safety.

"We strongly urge Ministers to ensure the next NRSS adopts the principles and mechanisms central to Australia’s COVID-19 response, and therefore prioritises the consistent collection and timely reporting of data, along with co-operation by all levels of government, driven by national leadership and coordination,” the submission concludes.

They certainly have the backing now Bicycle Network. Our submissions to the Federal Government have repeatedly urged a solution to the failures in road trauma data collection.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.

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