Time to fund road safety election promises in budget to save lives and reduce injuries

“Taking a national, aspirational leadership approach to road safety could save at least $55B by 2020, and save over 2,300 lives and 50,000 serious injuries over the current decade”, reports the President of the Australasian College of Road Safety,  Mr Lauchlan McIntosh AM, in today’s ACRS 2017-18 pre-Budget Submission.

The nation experienced a 7.9% increase in road deaths during 2016 compared to 2015, and the Federal Government reports that serious injuries have increased every year since 2000, placing an extra and unnecessary burden on the economy.

“Australia’s National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, supported by all levels of government, aims for a 30% reduction in deaths and serious injuries by 2020 – we are in reverse in our efforts to reach this target and urgently need the Coalition’s funding re-allocation to turn this around”, said Mr McIntosh. 

The submission states that Australia has fallen behind in every major measure of road safety performance when compared to the OECD over the last decade, and recommends investing what is a relatively modest amount now to at least be back in the top 10 by the year 2020.

“An almost insignificant reallocation of the substantial roads infrastructure funding in the Federal Budget, for road safety coordination, would bring significant benefit”, said Mr McIntosh.  “The Federal Coalition released a strong policy in August 2013 to improve road safety, but many components remain unfunded. In this 2017-18 Budget it is time make funds available”.

“Imagine if our current annual number of road casualties – 1,300 killed and over 37,000 seriously injured each year – were killed or injured by war, plane crashes, or an epidemic”, Mr McIntosh said. “There would be a national outcry and a national budget immediately”.

The Federal Government has a clear responsibility for coordination and leadership, and for funding roads and vehicle standards. When there was a country-wide crisis with over 3,500 road deaths per year in the 1970’s, a national approach including appropriate funding was implemented to bring about coordinated action.  This action resulted in a significant reduction in trauma rates. However, road deaths and injuries are now rising and, although there is a National Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan for road safety, strategic leadership and coordination activities remain largely underfunded. 

“Road trauma costs are felt across the entire community, and while the transport sector may bear the infrastructure and enforcement costs, the health and social service sectors bear the ongoing costs.  Benefits of reduced trauma flow through into improved national productivity, a reduction in health costs, and enhanced social well-being”, said Mr McIntosh.

The Submission states that reintroducing a  holistic systems approach from the Federal Government will make a significant difference, supporting increased scale and coordination to ensure long term results.

The College’s submission is for $1.7 million per year over three years to assist in building collaboration and coordination across all stakeholders.  The submission includes improving national communication networks, implementing a national road safety research framework, developing a coordinated focus on collecting and analysing injury data, encouraging the community to recognise economic and societal benefits of trauma reductions, rewarding best practice, and supporting increased international collaboration across all sectors.