Launch of Yellow Ribbon National Road Safety Week

Thank you Minister Chester for launching Road Safety Week and congratulations to Peter Frazer, the President of the Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH) Foundation, for organising the Week.

This is a very important time to have Road Safety Week in Australia, coinciding with the announcement of the Federal Budget and the commencement of a national election campaign, and hopefully shortly the release of the Report from the recent Senate Inquiry into Aspects of Road Safety.

Last year at the World Road Safety Conference in Brazil, an Australian Declaration for “Trauma Free Roads” was presented to the organisers on behalf of all the 670 delegates of last year’s ACRS Conference. What a goal to have, and why not!

While the social impacts of road trauma are well known, road trauma has serious economic impacts on Australia’s productivity, and the costs to our economy are around $27bn per year – similar to Australia’s annual Defence Budget, or almost 2% of the national GDP.

Unfortunately, Australia’s relative performance in achieving road trauma reductions is declining on the international stage. We have moved from the middle of the top ten, to the bottom of the top twenty over the last few decades.  

Compounding our decline in terms of relative global performance, the number of serious injuries from road crashes in Australia is increasing each year.

The impact of road trauma is felt across the whole economy, but often ignored in the national Budget, where small national investments would have significant returns. Similar investments by corporate business, communities, private families and individuals will have positive returns.

A united effort is required to adequately address this serious issue, arguably one of the highest ranking public health issues we have in Australia today.

There are three top measures recently suggested by road safety experts to reduce road trauma—research, management and leadership—where this united effort should be made.  Awareness of the full impacts of road trauma through the Road Safety Week is absolutely vital, but so is action by us all to address these three factors.

Let me repeat, increased awareness is vital. But so is action.

In this Budget Week where the national focus is on enhancing our economy, we need commitment to simple investments to reduce road trauma. We will also be looking to all political parties setting out their commitments in action plans and resources to reduce road trauma for the coming election.

To achieve “Trauma Free Roads” will require more than encouraging drivers and road users to change their behaviour. It must include investment in safer mobility systems in existing and new road networks, in safer, smarter new vehicles, in research, management and importantly leadership.  

Thank you.

Lauchlan McIntosh AM
Australasian College of Road Safety