There were 1,188 road deaths in Australia in 2019. This represents a 4.7 per cent increase in road deaths on the previous year. More people died on our roads in 2019 than they did five years ago, when 1,153 road deaths occurred in 2014.
It is little surprise that independent research has shown Australian motorists are more concerned about road safety than any other factor influencing driving – including transport costs, congestion and vehicle emissions.
The social cost of road deaths is immeasurable, however, the economic impact of Australia’s road safety crisis is not. AAA research has found road crashes cost the Australian economy almost $30 billion annually, mainly in the form of foregone tax revenues, vehicle damage, and disability care.
With more than 100 Australians killed in car crashes every month, and equal numbers are seriously injured daily, there is an urgent need to reduce vehicle crashes and the AAA and its member clubs have a number of strategies and proposals to make our roads safer.
In response to Australia’s worsening road toll in recent years, the AAA along with its seven member clubs – the NRMA, RACV, RACQ, RAC, RAA, RACT and AANT – and a further fifteen transport, health, research and emergency services groups, developed Reviving Road Safety, outlining key steps the federal government should take in coordinating a national response to road safety.
Reviving Road Safety outlines the following priorities:
The National Road Safety Strategy was signed in 2011 by all Australian governments with the aim of reducing road deaths and serious injuries by at least 30 per cent by 2020.
The AAA regularly benchmarks the National Road Safety Strategy and tracks progress being made against the stated targets of reducing road deaths and serious injuries. Prior to COVID-19 travel restrictions, not a single state was on track to meet the target of reducing road fatalities by 30 per cent. View the latest Benchmarking Report.
Worse still, despite the Strategy setting a 30 per cent reduction in serious injuries as one of its headline targets, Australia is still unable to measure serious injuries across the country due to data discrepancies between jurisdictions. This is just one of several targets set out in the Strategy which nearly ten years after governments signed-on still cannot be measured.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commonwealth, state and territory governments have demonstrated what can be achieved when there is cooperation and a laser-focus on tackling serious health issues. Governments have proven that consistent data can be collected and reported in real time; that the success of public health campaigns can be instantly changed, nuanced or targeted depending on what the health data is showing; and that Australians themselves will readily change their practices when governments demonstrate and communicate an urgency.
There are great learnings from the collective response of governments to COVID-19, which the AAA will lobby to ensure are adopted as part of road safety responses going forward, including as part of the next National Road Safety Strategy to take effect from 2021.
Australia lacks detailed, reliable and consistent road safety data in many key areas. Without good road safety data, we can’t target investment where there is most need and we can’t use evidence to set effective priorities.
The AAA believes the Office of Road Safety should be given responsibility for implementing an overhaul of Australia’s road safety data collection, analysis and reporting capabilities. The Office must work with state and territory governments to:
Improved data will produce better informed road safety interventions. It will support targeted infrastructure investment and the evaluation of interventions.
Australian motorists contribute significant funds to the Australian Government through fuel excise, customs duty and the Luxury Car Tax. The Australian Government collects 41.8 cents in tax or ‘excise’ on every litre of petrol and diesel sold at the pump in Australia. Rather than specifically earmarking this money for road safety or transport infrastructure, as many other countries do, the Government can allocate these funds to any area of expenditure.
One of the ways we can help to save lives is to upgrade our roads to make them safer. With the right investment, even the worst stretches of road can be made significantly safer. Locating the riskiest stretches of roads and identifying the most appropriate upgrades is an important first step.
The National Road Safety Action Plan 2018-2020 aims to achieve 3-star AusRAP ratings or better for 80 per cent of travel on state roads, including a minimum of 90 per cent of travel on national highways. It is estimated that more than a third of all road deaths and severe injuries could be prevented if these targets in the Action Plan were achieved, however there is no transparency about how the plan’s targets are being measured or whether they are on track to be achieved.
As the major funder of road infrastructure, the Australian Government must link infrastructure funding to road safety outcomes, to ensure road funding proposals are tied to safety standards. Further, the Australian Government must ensure that states and territories are accountable for agreed road safety targets within the National Road Safety Strategy. The latest risk mapping data is presented in an interactive website as well as associated reports.
Vehicles built in the past five to 10 years are much safer than previously released models. ANCAP research has found that vehicles built before the year 2002 represent just 20 per cent of Australia’s national fleet but are involved in 36 per cent of fatalities.
AAA research has shown that lowering the average age of Australia’s light vehicle fleet by one year would save up to 1,377 lives and create a $19.7 billion benefit in trauma and emission reductions over a 20-year period.
Keys2drive is an Australian Government-funded program administered by the AAA on behalf of Australia’s motoring clubs. The program aims to reduce the high crash risk for newly licensed drivers by providing free one-hour lessons to novice drivers and their parents or supervisors. It helps learners become more aware of the road safety implications of being a newly licensed P Plate driver and assists supervisors in becoming better informed and more confident in their roles.
The program has delivered more than 750,000 free lessons since its inception in 2009. For more information about the program and to register for a free lesson, please visit the Keys2drive website.