President’s column

AS CHRISTMAS approaches and we start thinking about family get-togethers and holidays at the coast, it’s hard to imagine when there was better time to get behind the wheel of a car.

When the Ford Falcon first hit Australia’s roads in 1960 it took the average male wage-earner 60 weeks to earn enough money to buy one. By 2014, the same base model Falcon could be bought by the average wage-earner after a mere 25.9 weeks of work.

Consumers can buy cars relatively cheaply, choosing between literally hundreds of different makes and models. Before they get to the showroom, these vehicles are crash-tested to comply with stringent national design standards. They have driver aids and safety features that would have been inconceivable to a designer working at Ford Australia in the 1960s.

Legions of researchers, engineers, planners and regulators work to ensure that Australian motorists reach their destinations efficiently and safely.

Local Government has been an active player in the regulatory and safety spheres, providing ever-better roads and road-related infrastructure, and adopting new technologies to further improve the safety and productivity of Australia’s land transport networks.

The sense of obligation that drives councils to go the extra mile on road safety is most keenly felt in the bush, where country people are four times more likely to dies in a road crash than their cousins living in the big cities.

The wide-scale introduction of driverless cars on country roads will reduce this unacceptable death toll – which is why Transport For NSW's recent initiative in staging trials of “emerging connected and automated vehicles” in regional areas next year is so welcome.

About the only thing that hasn’t altered radically in 50 years of motoring is our collective mindset.

We now disapprove of drink-driving – a momentous societal change – but as individuals we’re still apt to to check our text messages at speed or to keep driving when we should pull over and rest.

Recognising that we as drivers are the weakest link, Local and state governments promote road safety heavily. The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA), for example, recently launched a self-funded campaign to highlight the dangers of driver fatigue over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Similar campaigns are underway in other parts of the country. However, as we start planning our holidays, we need to consider our own roles and responsibilities in reducing risk factors on Australia’s local roads.

Safe motoring,

David O'Loughlin,