Road Safety Management in Australia – A call for more coordinated action. By Lauchlan McIntosh AM (ACRS National President) – updated Jan 2013

7 November 2012


This is a conversation paper on national public policy issues relating to reducing Australia’s deaths and injuries from road crashes. These deaths and injuries are often termed the “road toll’; a toll or price we do not have to pay. The National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 (NRSS) accepts a zero vision…no one should be killed in road crashes. This conversation paper is entirely the view of the author, developed from conversation with a wide range of interested individuals and it will be updated based on comments received.  This is the second edition.  It is intended to provide an independent constructive commentary with some specific actions to reduce road trauma in Australia.

Two years into the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, the Australian response and actions in managing a reduction in domestic road trauma could benefit from a more coordinated and action-oriented focus.

Australian governments collectively agreed in May 2011 to reduce deaths and injuries from road crashes by 30% by 2020.  While results in some areas are on target, overall Australia is already falling behind its trauma reduction targets. More died and perhaps more were injured in road crashes in 2012 than 2011. Twenty five died every week in 2012 across the country in those crashes. We can estimate that around 500 were seriously injured; every week.

Recognising road safety should be a vital factor in the Australian productivity and national economic debate. There is a strong case for integrating road safety targets and aspirations into all current research, road, vehicle and communication programs. For assessing and building efficient cooperative State, Local and Federal Government road safety programs together with business, professional and community groups.  There is strong case for having not only a national reduction target for deaths and injuries but also a widely agreed action plan and budget to focus attention and enhance resource coordination.

Funding at sufficient scale could come from new sources and from current road, industry, transport, insurance and health-related areas.  That budget though should recognise the size of the problem (i.e. the annual cost to the community of at least $27 billion+) and the scale of the response needed to achieve effective results. The funding is not simply expenditure; it will be investment with a real return.

It is essential to build a consensus across the whole community that there are many solutions, often at relatively low capital and social cost, which can reduce trauma without unnecessarily impacting on mobility.

Specifically national actions should be;

Road trauma should be assessed as a vital factor in the Australian national economy and a national budget which recognises the real scale of the problem set to ensure that reduction targets are met. Safety targets should be included in all road infrastructure, vehicle and technology-related spending as well as in mobility planning. The scale of potential national savings of at least $10bn pa in 10 years or $55bn over the 10years will requires a priority national COAG plan and perhaps a budget of at least $500m pa. An initial step to resource a Productivity Commission review and to fund a national coordination program of key parties is urgently needed.  The benefits will be in lives saved and reduced trauma, savings to the health and legal systems and improved national productivity.

Read the Full Paper (updated Jan 2013) here.