Road Deaths Down in 2008 - But 4 Still Die Every Day
The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) today welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement that road deaths fell in 2008, but called for a national debate to highlight the tragedy that still sees more than four people die every day on Australian roads.
The AAA – Australia's peak motoring body representing more than six million motorists – said Australian governments, industry and the motoring community appeared de-sensitised to the high level of road trauma which costs the Australian economy more than $17 billion a year.
The AAA comments were in response to the release of road fatality figures by Federal Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, today that 1,463 people died on Australian roads last year – a drop of almost 10% on the previous tally of 1,603 deaths. Please refer to the graph below.
AAA Executive Director, Mike Harris, said that, while it is good news to see road fatalities decrease in 2008, it is deeply regrettable that Australia accepts more than 1400 people dying every year.
Mr Harris said that, despite the drop, the National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS), agreed to by ATC, which comprises both Commonwealth and State and Territory Transport Ministers, would fail to meet its targeted reduction road deaths by 2010.
"The figures show 1,463 people died on Australian roads in 2008 and thousands more were admitted to hospital with serious injuries, at the estimated cost of $17 billion per year according to the Queensland University’s Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health,” Mr Harris said.
“The NRSS was developed in 2001 through to 2010 with an aim of cutting the fatality rate by 40 per cent over this period – it now appears unlikely that figure will be met.
“But of greater concern is the acceptance by governments, industry and the motoring public that this figure is acceptable – if four people died in a rail accident or plane crash there would be a major outcry, yet we all seem to accept this daily tragedy.
The NRSS estimated some 700 lives a year could be saved through a combination of safer road design (332 lives a year), vehicle safety (175), driver training (158) and new technology (35) – yet the bulk of road safety campaigns and media coverage continues to focus on driver behaviour and training.
“These figures show there needs to be a greater focus on road design and vehicle safety.
”It is time for action to ensure better and safer road design – particularly protecting motorists from roadside hazards such as poles and trees, and to avoid head-on crashes by, for example, installing wire rope barriers.
“Roadside hazards account for approximately 40% of those deaths.
Mr Harris welcomed the Federal Government’s increased expenditure on road infrastructure and the establishment of Infrastructure Australia as positive moves towards reducing the number of road deaths and trauma.
“And the clear advances in vehicle safety and technology, such as Electronic Stability Control and curtain airbags, have proven to save lives,” he said.
“But we need to engage the Australian community to make everyone understand the importance of safer roads and vehicles as well as the need to ensure our drivers are well trained and act responsibly.
“AAA and Australia’s motoring clubs support the internationally recognised ‘safe systems’ approach to road safety – safer drivers in safer cars on safer roads.
“We urge government and the community to embrace this approach and to generate a national debate highlighting the importance of all these elements in bringing down the unacceptably high fatality rate.
“The debate can focus on the NRSS, the proposed 40 per cent reduction, setting new, aggressive reduction targets and looking at the best ways to meet those targets.
“AAA and the clubs intend conducting an international road safety summit later this year in a bid to highlight these issues and possible solutions.
"Authorities are right to point out that motorists have a responsibility to drive safely, but drivers are fallible and make mistakes – they should not have to pay with their lives for a momentary lapse in concentration.
“AAA and the motoring clubs have programs in place that actually measure the safety of roads and vehicles and awards them a star rating for safety – the Australian Road Assessment Program and the Australasian New Car Assessment Program.”
These star rating programs can be viewed at www.ancap.com.au/home.
“Overall, 58% of the AusLink National Network rated 3 stars or less, which is not acceptable. Roads like the Pacific Highway in NSW and the Bruce Highway in Queensland claim many lives every year, and need to be upgraded as a matter of urgency,” Mr Harris said.
“And the ANCAP program can provide consumers with important safety information which will help them in making their important new car purchases.
“We urge all Australians to think about these road fatalities and seek more information on how we can avoid so much death and trauma on our roads.”