Road Deaths Up In 2007 – Time For Urgent Action
The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) – Australia's peak motoring body representing some six million motorists – today called on governments to make Australian roads safer and lower the 2007 national fatality rate of 1,611 deaths, which is an increase on the previous year.
AAA Research Manager, Greg Smith, said it was deeply regrettable that Australia had taken a backward step, with more people being killed in 2007 than the 1,598 fatalities in 2006.
”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 installing wire rope barriers,” Mr Smith said.
"1,611 people died on Australian roads in 2007 and thousands more were admitted to hospital with serious injuries, at an estimated cost to the Australian economy of $17 billion per year.
“Roadside hazards accounted for around 40% of those deaths.
"If 1,611 people died in air disasters or as a result of terrorist activity, governments around Australia would react immediately to ensure this didn't happen again – yet it happens every year on our roads.
"How many times have we seen television footage or photos of cars wrapped around a pole or tree or a head-on collision that could have been avoided by simply erecting a wire rope barrier down the centre of the road."
Mr Smith said that, while the Federal Government had committed billions to road infrastructure in the lead up to the 2007 Federal Election, there is now a real need to ensure it is invested in better designed roads that protect Australian motorists and their families.
AAA has called for $25 billion to be invested in AusLink II.
"Often it is the road itself that either causes the crash or turns what could have been a minor crash into a killer – a doubling of Black Spot funding would certainly be a step in the right direction of ensuring safer roads," he said.
Australia's National Road Safety Strategy was established with the specific aim of reducing the annual road fatality rate by 40% between 1999 and 2010. Mr Smith said the strategy identified that 332 lives each year – nearly half of the targeted improvement – can be saved by building safer roads.
"With the high fatality rates of 2007 – that's five people a day dying on Australian roads - the chances of achieving the national road safety target are becoming increasingly slim," he said.
"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.
"The AAA's Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) provides all governments and road users with a star rating of a road's safety. These ratings can be viewed at www.ausrap.org and identify what makes a road safe or unsafe.
“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 Smith noted that there are promising examples of road upgrade programs to make roads safe, but these need to be significantly expanded throughout the country.
“VicRoads’ Safer Roads program is a shining example. It is funded by the Transport Accident Commission to the tune of $240 million, and will significantly address run off road crashes in Victoria by installing roadside safety barriers, sealing road edges and removing roadside hazards,” he said.
Mr Smith also noted the need to ensure better training and education for younger drivers as a priority alongside the need to improve road design and maintenance.
“We were pleased that during the Federal Election campaign, both the ALP and Coalition committed to introducing keys2drive - a scheme which provides a free lesson for parents to assist them in teaching their own children to drive," he said.
"keys2drive will provide parents with the necessary understanding and confidence to be able to get out on the road and educate their children on how to drive safely."
Please see the attached Media Release for the full fact sheet.