Safety ratings for roads

Every week, five people die on Victorian roads. Driver error? Maybe. Often, it’s the design of the road that turns what could have been a minor crash into a killer. Safer roads save lives. Find out what you can do….

AusRAP_logo

AusRAP is the Australian Road Assessment Program. It has been developed as a simple and easy to understand measure of how safe a road is.

AusRAP provides independent information about the safety of our major regional highways and identify and cost the measures that are needed to improve safety and save lives.

Safer roads save lives

In Victoria 260 people are killed each year as a result of crashes on roads. Statistics show that 55% of road fatalities occur on rural roads, but only 25% of the population live in rural Victoria. Across Australia this problem increases significantly to 1,400 people who are killed each year and more than 32,500 who are hospitalised.

Most crashes occur when ordinary people make everyday, human mistakes. Sober, drug-free, responsible drivers obeying the speed limit and wearing seat belts frequently die on our roads. Safer roads minimise the chances of these crashes happening, and if they do occur, they minimise the severity of the crash.

The images below are typical Victorian roads, and highlight some of the features that make a road safe (green) or unsafe (red).

RACV AusRAP 1 star road
RACV AusRAP 3 star road undivided
RACV AusRAP 3 star road divided
RACV AusRAP 5 star road

We need to create a safe system, in which the safety of driversvehicles and roads is of mutual importance. A safe system where we have five star drivers, in five star cars on five star roads should involve no deaths.

How safe are Victoria's roads?

RACV has assessed the safety of Victoria’s major highways in two ways:

·       risk maps measure the real-life performance of a road network using crashes which have occurred on the road. Each section of road is assigned a rating from high risk down to low risk.

·       star ratings measure the inherent safety of a road’s design – that is, the degree to which built-in safety features prevent crashes from occurring and reduce the severity of those crashes which do occur. Each road is assigned a rating from one star (least safe) to five stars (safest). Safer road investment plans can then be developed to identify and cost appropriate road safety improvements to make the road safer.

Risk maps

In 2016, RACV assessed 1,634km of major highways in Victoria with a speed limit of 90km/h and above by looking at the crashes that occurred from 2010-2014 (the latest available data nationally).  Each highway section was assigned a risk rating from low to high.

The results found that sections of the Calder and Goulburn Valley Highways have crash problems and may need funding for safety upgrades. The study also found that the recently upgraded Nagambie Bypass on the Goulburn Valley Highway is the safest section of the national network in Australia.

Our analysis identified the five worst sections of highway in Victoria, which accounted for less than nine per cent of the kilometres reviewed, but recorded nearly 25 per cent of the crashes and 15 per cent of deaths. The riskiest five sections are:

·  Princes Freeway from Western Ring Road to Hoppers Crossing 

·  Goulburn Valley Highway from Numurkah to NSW border

·  Western Freeway from Western Ring Road to Melton (Deer Park Bypass)

·  Princes Freeway from Nar Nar Goon to Warragul

·  Nar Nar Goon to Warragul from Ballarat (Sunraysia Hwy) to Beaufort.

Star ratings

In 2014, RACV assessed 2,885 kilometres of Victoria’s national highway network classified from one star (least safe) to five stars (most safe), just two per cent of the Victorian rural highway network achieved the maximum five star rating, with 24 per cent rated at less than three stars.

The RACV policy is that all existing sections of the National Highway Network should be upgraded to achieve a minimum AusRAP safety rating of three stars. Newly constructed sections of highway should achieve a safety rating of no less than four stars.

We have calculated that an investment of approximately $580 million would achieve the minimum three star standard on Victoria’s major highways saving at least 2,800 people from serious injury or death on these roads over the next 20 years.

What RACV wants for our Members

RACV believes Victorians deserve:

·       A minimum 3-star standard of safety on existing major highways.

·       Newly constructed sections of highway to achieve a safety rating of no less than 4-stars.

We have called on the State and Federal Governments to commit to upgrading 1 and 2-star sections of rural highway to a 3-star minimum commencing with the Calder Hwy north of Bendigo, the Western Hwy west of Stawell, the Princes Hwy West west of Colac and the Princes Hwy East east of Sale. 

We have calculated that an investment of approximately $580 million across the major highways would achieve the minimum 3-star standard on Victoria’s major highways saving at least 2,800 people from serious injury or death on these roads over the next 20 years. Simple measures such as safety barriers along the roadside and in the median to prevent run-off-road and head-on crashes, improved skid resistance of road surfaces and rumble strips on highway shoulders and centrelines to reduce run-off-road crashes can save lives and reduce injuries from crashes on our roads.

RACV also called on the State and Federal Governments to commit to funding the completion of duplications to at least a 4-star standard commencing with the Western Highway from Ballarat to Stawell, including a bypass of Beaufort, the Princes Hwy West from Geelong to Colac, the Princes Hwy East from Traralgon to Sale, and construction of the Shepparton Bypass.

We want to see the release of AusRAP star ratings for the Victorian highway network in partnership with RACV, using the star rating assessments that VicRoads has completed. This will show Victorians both the safety benefits that have been achieved from the recent mass-action treatments delivered by the TAC and VicRoads, and where further road safety investments can be expected.

RACV will be seeking commitments for rural road upgrades in the 2018 Victorian state election. RACV also wants a stronger commitment in the 2018 State and Federal Budgets towards making Victoria’s country highways substantially safer. 

What can I do?

Now you know why safer roads are important for all Victorians, what can you do about it?

Safer drivers

Check the star rating and risk rating of major highways before travelling. If sections of the road you plan to drive on are a 1- or 2-star rated, or are a black or red risk rating, plan your drive to maximise safety. Try to swap drivers before the risky section, or take a break before it starts so you are well rested and alert.

You can plan your breaks in advance by finding rest areas across Australia.

Safer cars

Make sure you buy the safest car you can afford. Whether buying a new or second-hand car, always check the safety rating before buying, and purchase the safest car within your budget. Modern safety features such as curtain airbags, electronic stability control and automatic braking systems can help avoid crashes and minimise the impact of any crash. Safe cars don’t have to be the most expensive ones!

See used car safety ratings and new car safety ratings.

Safer roads

Contact your local State and Federal Governments MP's and demand better roads for all Victorians. Engineering measures to improve road safety don’t have to be high cost and best of all, they last decades!

You can find the contact details for Victorian parliament here, and for Federal parliament here.

Want to know more?

For more detail on AusRAP, including how risk mapping and star ratings are carried out, expand the sections below.

About AusRAP

AusRAP is run by the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) and State and Territory motoring clubs, including RACV. AusRAP national assessments were first published in 2005.

AusRAP is part of the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP), a worldwide movement to improve the safety of roads and a proud supporter of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, a global plan to reduce the number of road deaths worldwide.

AusRAP looks at the safety of a road in two ways:

·       risk maps measure the real-life performance of a road network using crashes which have occurred on the road. Each section of road is assigned a rating from high risk down to low risk.

·       star ratings measure the inherent safety of a road’s design – that is, the degree to which built-in safety features prevent crashes from occurring and reduce the severity of those crashes which do occur. Each road is assigned a rating from one star (least safe) to five stars (safest). Safer road investment plans can then be developed to identify and cost appropriate road safety improvements to make the road safer.

Investing in safer roads shown to save lives

We know there are benefits to investing in Victoria’s country highways. The case study below is just one example.

Case Study – Princes Hwy East

A $36 million investment on the Princes Highway East through the TAC Safer Road Infrastructure Program aimed to deliver a range of road safety improvement projects. Treatments included traditional road safety treatments (e.g. roadside barriers, shoulder sealing and rumble strips) and innovative ones (coloured guide posts). Preliminary post-completion analysis of the improvements made to two road sections under that investment costing just under $20 million indicates the following improvements:

·       actual reduction in serious injuries of 44% (with the AusRAP model predicting 42%)

·       an estimated 56 serious casualties saved per year for each AUD$100m invested

·       elimination of all AusRAP 1- and 2-star (least safe) sections and a 36% increase in road length at 4-star or better (safest). 

 

 

Risk mapping explained

AusRAP Risk Maps highlight those sections of road that are riskier than others based on casualty crashes that have been recorded and traffic flow. This provides a measure of the safety performance of a road. 

How risk mapping works

Risk maps analyse high speed sections of the National Highway Network with speed limits of 90 km/h or higher.  They are based on crash data on from a five-year period. The crash and traffic volume data used in risk maps are obtained from the road authority in each state and territory.

While there is consistency in the definition of a fatality across jurisdictions, namely a death occurring within 30 days of the crash, the severity definitions of non-fatal crashes are inconsistent. The way an injury is categorised at the crash scene can also vary by jurisdiction. To address this definitional problem, the risk maps presented in this report are based on casualty crashes. A casualty crash is defined as any road crash in which at least one person is killed or injured.

There are two ways to assess the risk of a given section of road based on its number of casualty crashes.

1.       Collective risk measures the density, or total number, of casualty crashes over a given length of road. Collective risk is calculated by dividing the number of casualty crashes per annum by the length of the highway.

2.       Individual risk measures the casualty crash rates per vehicle kilometre travelled based on traffic volume, and so effectively represents the risk faced by an individual driver. Individual risk is calculated by dividing the frequency of crashes per annum by the distance travelled on each section per annum. 

Previous editions of AusRAP Risk Mapping have the two risk types presented on separate maps. In the interest of producing an easily comprehensible risk assessment, in this report the two risk types have been combined with equal weighting to produce a single risk score per road section (the combined risk score).

Once a section of highway has received a combined risk score, it is assigned a corresponding colour on the scale to the right.

The cut-off points between colours are determined by ranking sections from worst to least risk across Australia, calculating the total length of road assessed and then dividing this result into five colour bandings, each representing as close as possible to 20 per cent of the network assessed.

Where gaps appear between highway sections on a risk map, this is typically due to the highway passing through an area without the required speed limit of 90km/h or above. In New South Wales, for example, the portion of the Great Western / Mitchell Highway passing through the Bathurst town centre has not been rated for this reason.

Latest results

In 2016, RACV assessed 1,634km of major highways in Victoria with a speed limit of 90km/h and above by looking at the crashes that occurred from 2010-2014 (the latest available data nationally).  Those crashes were the result of factors related to driver behaviour, the vehicle and/or the safety of the road. Each highway section was assigned a risk rating from low to high.

The results found that sections of the Calder and Goulburn Valley Highways have crash problems and may need funding for safety upgrades. The study also found that the recently upgraded Nagambie Bypass on the Goulburn Valley Highway is the safest section of the national network in Australia.

However, there are many rural Victorian roads needing urgent attention. Our analysis identified the five worst sections of highway in Victoria, which accounted for less than nine per cent of the kilometres reviewed, but recorded nearly 25 per cent of the crashes and 15 per cent of deaths. The riskiest five sections are:

·       Princes Freeway from Western Ring Road to Hoppers Crossing 

·       Goulburn Valley Highway from Numurkah to NSW border

·       Western Freeway from Western Ring Road to Melton (Deer Park Bypass)

·       Princes Freeway from Nar Nar Goon to Warragul

·       Nar Nar Goon to Warragul from Ballarat (Sunraysia Hwy) to Beaufort.

Previous assessments of the standard of infrastructure (see the Star Ratings Explained section below) found that the Calder Highway north of Bendigo was mostly a 1 and 2-star road.  Similarly, the Goulburn Valley Highway around Strathmerton was a 2-star road. This new crash assessment has found that the same sections of road have poor crash records.

Some of the best sections identified are those that have received Federal and State funding for safety improvements and duplications in recent years. Substantial upgrades to the road network have also been completed since the rating period of 2010-2014 and the benefits of these investments are expected to show in future assessments. 

For example, a $1 billion, ten year program to improve the safety of Victoria’s roads is underway, including crash barriers and other low-cost road improvements and some of this program has since been spent on roads assessed as part of this study.  

Mapp of risk rating results

See the risk assessment results for Victoria’s major highways on the AAA website - click on the map to the right, or download the report.

Note: due to changes in the methodology, the 2016 results are not directly comparable with past results.

Star ratings explained

AusRAP Star Ratings enable us to identify unsafe roads before a crash occurs and work out what to do to make them safer.

Star Ratings measure the inherent safety of a road’s infrastructure – that is, the degree to which built-in safety features prevent crashes from occurring and reduce the severity of those crashes which do occur. Each road is assigned a rating out of five stars, which tells us how safe the road is.

AUSRAP star rating illustration

How star ratings work

Star Ratings show the inherent safety of the road infrastructure. Over 70 design elements are inspected such as lane width, shoulder width and the presence of safety barriers, because they are known to have an impact on the likelihood of a crash and its severity.   Between 1 and 5-stars are awarded to sections of roads, measuring the level of safety which is ‘built-in’ to the road, with 1-star being the least safe and 5-stars the safest as shown in the image.

We know that a 4 or 5-star rating is not unattainable. In fact, Victoria has the longest length of highway rated as 5-star in Australia.

Safe Road Investment Plans (SRIP)

Once the Star Rating is assessed, AusRAP can develop Safer Roads Investment Plans (SRIPs). These plans draw on more than 50 countermeasures to generate costed road upgrade proposals which can prevent tens of thousands of fatalities and serious injuries over a 20-year period. The plans use estimates of reductions in fatalities and serious injuries to quantify safety benefits.

Only countermeasures with a benefit cost ratio (BCR) greater than one are considered by the SRIP, indicating a positive economic return on investing in road improvements. Implementing these plans would reduce the proportion of 1 and 2-star sections of national highway and prevent casualties on Australian roads each year.

Simple measures to prevent run-off-road, head-on and intersection crashes can save lives and reduce injuries from crashes on our roads.

For more information on Safer Road Investment Plans download the 2013 Star Ratings report

Latest star rating results

In 2014, RACV assessed 2,885 kilometres of Victoria’s national highway network classified from one star (least safe) to five stars (most safe), just two per cent of the Victorian rural highway network achieved the maximum five star rating, with 24 per cent rated at less than three stars.

RACV believes that all existing sections of the National Highway Network should be upgraded to achieve a minimum AusRAP safety rating of three stars. Newly constructed sections of highway should achieve a safety rating of no less than four stars.

RACV has called on the State and Federal Governments to make a commitment to upgrade 1 and 2-star sections of rural highway to a 3-star minimum AusRAP standard commencing with the Calder Hwy north of Bendigo, the Western Hwy west of Stawell, the Princes Hwy West west of Colac and the Princes Hwy East east of Sale. 

RACV also calls on the State and Federal Governments to commit to funding the completion of duplications to at least a 4-star AusRAP standard commencing with  the Western Highway from Ballarat to Stawell, including a bypass of Beaufort, the Princes Hwy West from Geelong to Colac, the Princes Hwy East from Traralgon to Sale, and construction of the Shepparton Bypass.

We have calculated that an investment of approximately $580 million would achieve the minimum three star standard on Victoria’s major highways saving at least 2,800 people from serious injury or death on these roads over the next 20 years.

Road maps of the TAC Safer Road infrastructure program

The results are shown in the map below, or download and read pages 16 and 17 of the Regional Growing Pains Report

Note: due to changes in the methodology, the 2014 results are not directly comparable with past results.