Federal Budget – Spending More Could Have Saved More

With the societal cost of road crashes in Australia estimated at $27 billion each year, the Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS) wants to know if the Federal Government can afford not to contribute more to road safety in the 2023-24 budget.

Chief Executive Officer of ACRS, Dr Ingrid Johnston said, “the $43.6 million over four years to establish a new National Road Safety Action Grants Program is welcomed. This Program invests in the implementation of the National Road Safety Strategy and will support community education and awareness, vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists, First Nations road safety, technology, innovation, and research.”

Road safety encompasses more than just building roads, and this budget goes part-way to supporting that approach by recognising the importance of providing funding for the many other areas of the system which are required to create a safer road transport environment.

However, the Budget acknowledges that this funding was previously announced in the October 2022 budget, and the ACRS believes more could have been done this time around.

There is $1.1billion allocated to infrastructure, continuing existing road maintenance and safety programs including the Roads to Recovery program, Black Spot Program and Bridges Renewal Program.

Other funds provide $35.6m for IT systems to support infrastructure investment and road vehicle safety regulation, $18.9m over three years to procure road safety data, research and evaluate projects and $16.5m over five years for car safety ratings programs.

“In the 12 months to March 2023, 1,204 people died on Australian roads – the highest number since 2018. While the numbers keep increasing instead of decreasing, we are clearly not doing enough to prevent this trauma” Dr Johnston said.

The National Road Safety Action Plan 2023-25 lists nine priority areas including Infrastructure planning and investment, vehicle safety, First Nations people, regional, remote, workplace and heavy vehicle road safety, as well as vulnerable road users and addressing risky behaviour.

“The ACRS continues to support the National Road Safety Strategy commitment to ‘Vision Zero’, by eliminating death and serious injuries on our roads by 2050. To achieve this however, we need to invest more in road safety to combat the ever-increasing cost of road trauma on Australian society today,” concluded Dr Johnston.