The Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS) acknowledges and welcomes the Federal Government’s recent announcement regarding the increase in road infrastructure funding and program modifications aimed at reducing the administrative burden on local councils in Australia. The commitment to elevate Roads to Recovery funding from $500 million to $1 billion per year, and the increase in Black Spot funding from $110 million to $150 million annually, reflects a substantial investment in local road infrastructure.
Additionally, the merging of the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program (HVSPP) and the Bridges Renewal Program (BRP) into the new Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program, with a gradual increase in funding to $200 million annually, is a step in the right direction. However, there remains a critical gap in broader road safety measures, such as vehicle safety standards, driver training and education, access to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, enforcement of road laws, post-crash response and research into emerging road safety issues, which may not receive the necessary focus and funding.
While the announced funding increases are both welcome and necessary for the existing road network, the ACRS emphasises that they may not adequately target the core areas of road safety that are most in need of attention. Will local governments be able to use the funds for infrastructure that protects vulnerable road users such as separated cycle lanes, increased active travel corridors around schools and public transport hubs, as well as local highway safety upgrades?
“Maintenance is a huge issue with the increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather events. However, other critical issues that contribute to road fatalities and serious injuries also need vital funding boosts to turn around the increase in road trauma,” said Dr Ingrid Johnston, CEO of the ACRS.
It is imperative that increased investment is also specifically allocated to evidence-based road safety initiatives, in line with the National Road Safety Strategy of reducing annual fatalities by at least 50% and serious injuries by 30% by 2030. These initiatives should be designed to directly reduce the number of road fatalities and serious injuries, which remain a significant concern in Australia.
“Road safety extends beyond merely repairing potholes or enhancing physical infrastructure for better productivity. It also involves investing in areas currently underfunded, which directly contribute to road trauma. This includes ensuring infrastructure safeguards vulnerable road users and that roads are engineered and maintained for safe travel at set speed limits, designed to mitigate fatal and serious injury crashes.” concluded Dr Johnston.