Can Australia be a global leader in road safety?
Submission Date: 2013
The ambitious concept of the safe system approach to improving road safety evolved from the Vision Zero and Sustainable Safety concepts introduced in the mid-1990s, and was adopted by political leaders of all Australian jurisdictions in 2004. If Australia aspires to be a global road safety leader, it is instructive to learn from the achievements and shortcomings of its approach to the task. This paper reviews the experience of the Swedish Vision Zero and Dutch Sustainable Safety strategies as well as the United Kingdom’s road safety experience. A review of practices and outcomes in these three top road safety-performing countries has revealed that all of them had similarly good achievements despite the fact that only two countries have formally adopted a safe system model. The United Kingdom does not appear to have adopted safe system principles in its road safety strategy but has a comprehensive policy to “Making roads safer”. While the safe system framework calls specifically for road traffic systems that may be better managed taking into account human factors and physical tolerances, there are important socio-political challenges that must also be managed in order to optimise safety outcomes. In order to assure that the targeted reductions in road injury are achieved by the current Australian road safety strategy, it is imperative that any weaknesses in road safety efforts are identified and addressed. Australia has the potential to be a global leader in road safety but is held back by some important and persistent shortcomings in its commitment to the endeavour. Lessons from northern Europe can be helpful.