Focus on road safety

With the approach of the Easter holidays, and thousands more of us on the roads, governments turn their attention to road safety.

Some adopt temporary measures designed to enforce road discipline, such as double demerit points.  Many run awareness campaigns. Some local communities operate rest stops and encourage responsible driving.

At the national level, road safety was the theme of two important meetings last week. Both had a focus on the National Road Safety Action Plan for 2018-2020, which was revised from an earlier draft.

The Transport and Infrastructure Senior Officials Committee (TISOC) met in Melbourne last Friday and discussed the plan. TISOC advises the Transport and Infrastructure Council, which consists of Federal, State, Territory and New Zealand Ministers with responsibility for transport and infrastructure. ALGA, representing Local Government, also has a seat.

As the TISOC briefing states:

The revised Action Plan focuses on a sharper set of key national priority areas. They include:

  • Improving safety in regional and remote areas through speed limit reductions and infrastructure improvements.
  • Implementing safer speeds and building awareness of speed limits.
  • Improving vehicle safety standards.
  • Promoting the uptake of safer vehicles and technology especially by younger drivers.
  • Improving road safety enforcement.

In Hobart the Road Safety Task Force of Austroads met on Wednesday and Thursday last week. Austroads is the peak organisation of Australasian road transport and traffic agencies. This meeting also considered the revised Road Safety Action Plan.

ALGA has been involved in the drafting of the revised plan though its involvement with this Task Force and has reinforced that lower speed limits on regional roads should not be the first response, and that State and Territory agencies should be encouraged to engage more closely with local communities and Councils.

As well as discussions towards finalisation of this plan for 2018-2020, there is a focus on road safety strategy beyond that in a special inquiry established by the former Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, in 2017.

Professor Jeremy Woolley and Doctor John Crozier are the co-chairs. Both are experts in road safety. Dr Crozier is chair of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons’ Trauma Committee. In an interview in January Dr Crozer said 44,000 people were hospitalised after road crashes each year in Australia and “we accept that as a price to travel on our road system. It’s got to stop, we can’t keep doing this.”

The two men have had discussions with a variety of organisations including road agencies, road associations and insurers. They now want to speak to rural and regional councils. About two-thirds of road deaths occur on regional roads.  

Two organisations of councils, the Riverina Eastern Regional Organisation of Councils, representing nine councils and including the city of Wagga Wagga, and the Riverina and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils, representing 13 councils and including the cities of Albury and Griffith, have been invited to a roundtable meeting chaired by Professor Woolley. Dr Crozier is also expected to attend this meeting which will be held in Wagga Wagga on April 13.

This is an ideal opportunity for council members to listen to the experts, to look at the data about their local road networks and to put their thoughts on the range of issues to two men who are doing what they can to improve road safety.

The findings of the inquiry will be released in the coming months and TISOC is due to put out a communique on its discussions. 

ALGA hopes the meeting in Wagga Wagga becomes a template for more engagement at the local level right across the country. ALGA also welcomes the $32.9 million funding boost to the Black Spots program in Queensland, NSW and Western Australia announced on Wednesday by the Federal Government and its pledge to continue funding the program into the future.