News

World Health Day Challenge to Health Portfolio

7.4.2004

The World Health Organisation’s theme for World Health Day—Road Safety is No Accident—challenges all Australians to appreciate the shocking impact unsafe driving and dangerous roads have on our society. On average, 5 people are killed and 60 people seriously injured on our roads every day.

"The issue of road safety needs to be broadened from the limited, though active, confines of the Transport portfolio into the public health arena, and thereby to the increased attention of the Federal and State Health Ministers. The burden that poor road safety places on our hospital system and medical profession is unsustainable, but preventable.

"Much more can be done to ensure that we have safer drivers in safer vehicles on safer roads, a point that was made at the recent launch of the national SaferRoads project. In Australia’s National Road Safety Strategy it is estimated that by 2010 around 700 lives every year could be saved by upgrading roads, improving driver behaviour, building safer vehicles and by introducing new technology. In addition to the lives saved, the flow on effect of the strategy in terms of serious injuries could be enormous—every injury avoided is a hospital bed available for others.

"Most people would be surprised to know that nearly half of the National Strategy’s target—around 332 lives per year—could be saved by making what are in many cases, relatively simple improvements to our roads. Things like sealing road shoulders, placing guard rails around hazardous trees and ensuring that traffic is separated by more than just a splash of paint can make a big difference.

"Achieving the National target is by no means guaranteed. The Federal Government’s recent confirmation that there will be new funding for roads in the coming May budget and the re-commitment to the Roads to Recovery program is welcome news, but similar State programs are essential if the national target to save 2 of the 5 deaths every day is to be achieved.

"Through fuel excise, motorists contribute over $12 billion annually to the Australian Government, which is in addition to specific GST revenue being returned to the States. Current Federal road funding is limited to $1.8 billion, and given the backlog of funding already identified, motorists can reasonably expect at least an additional $1 billion for road maintenance and $1 billion for new safer roads from the Australian Government.

"The WHO challenge this year is one to which Australia must rise. It is time to recognise that the terror on our roads is preventable." 

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