The repeated tragedy of preventable death and serious injury that has played out on Australian roads this Christmas and New Year heightens the call for effective and immediate action if we are to achieve a 30 per cent reduction in death and serious injury on our roads — a conservative target we set ourselves for the decade ending 2020.
Outgoing Transport and Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester MP has demonstrated commendable leadership by emphasising that Federal Government commitment to road safety is an essential consideration in infrastructure development.
It is heartening to see that the current Inquiry into the Effectiveness of Australia's National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, co-chaired by Professor Jeremy Woolley and myself, remains a top priority under incoming minister and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
The inquiry is supported by senior advisory experts Lauchlan Macintosh AM, president of the Australasian College of Road Safety and chair of the Global New Car Assessment Program, and Mr Robert McInerney, CEO of the International Road Assessment Program.
We are committed to working in partnership with Mr Joyce to deliver our report by April, and confident of his seamless continuation of passionate commitment to road safety following the recent transfer of portfolio from Mr Chester.
The establishment of infrastructure helps build the economy, but preventable death and preventable serious injury on this infrastructure should not continue to be part of the price we pay — at a cost of $30 billion every year.
Make corporations accountable
Safety features should be an integral feature of all newly built infrastructure.
Agencies responsible for road safety should be able to demonstrate benefits of any implemented policy measure in terms of a reduced number of crashes, fatalities and serious injuries, with reliable data available in real time.
A corporate board accepting a $30 billion annual cost to treat 44,000 injured workers annually, acting on data four years old, would be required to show cause why it should not be stood down with immediate effect.
This is analogous to our attitude with respect to Australian road safety to date.
A total of 1.2 million new vehicles arrive in Australia annually.
Current ANCAP five-star rated light vehicles are approximately 20 per cent cheaper than five years ago, and by design, inherently safer than five years ago.
South Korea years ahead
Mandatory autonomous emergency braking and electronic stability control as a regulated requirement of all these newly arriving vehicles is anticipated to produce dramatic reductions in rear end collisions, fatalities and serious injury getting us back on track to meet our 2020 national road safety goal.
South Korea implemented such a policy last year. Why can't we, as a nation, be as agile?
Distraction, speed, alcohol and drug use contribute significantly to the burden of preventable crashes.
The barriers of federalism, siloism between agencies, passive verbs incorporated in road safety action policies, absence of nominated authorities responsible for action, and a lack of calibration tools embedded in policy should not be allowed to continue, for if they do, so too will the current carnage on our roads.
Dr John Crozier AM CSM is chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons' trauma committee and a leading road safety expert. He was invited by the Federal Government to co-chair a review of the National Road Safety Strategy.