Road Safety Management in Australia – A call for more coordinated action


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;

  • A decision by COAG to ask the Federal Government to commission a study by the Productivity Commission on the full impacts road trauma on national productivity, the current size of annual expenditure by all government sectors including transport, legal, industry and health, as well as to assess the economic costs and benefits of State, Federal and Local Government -based road safety programs.
  • Development of a national road safety research plan and national research budget involving government and industry, which should include a national data base of incidents with research which has a focus on timely and practical results. We need the best facts and evidence, not opinions, to make a difference. We need that research to improve our ability and our capacity to get results. Integration with best practice international researchers should be included.
  • Development of  a national active plan and budget to facilitate the introduction of safety technologies across vehicles and infrastructure.
  • Development of a national road safety communications (and marketing) plan.
  • Collective agreement from road safety groups themselves (government at all levels, business, researchers, practitioners) to the action plan which can build national and international partnerships, reduce duplication and which leaders can join and promote.
  • Using and extending existing non regulatory, effective programs such as AusRAP, ANCAP, and KEYS2DRIVE, rather than starting duplicate programs.
  • Assessing and reporting road trauma as a vital factor in the Australian national economy and national budget, set to ensure that reduction targets are met with safety targets included in all road infrastructure, vehicle and technology related spending as well as in mobility planning.

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.