State and federal review critical to reduce the road toll

RACV has called for State and Federal Government inquiries into Victoria’s rapidly growing road toll.

After an appalling year for road deaths in 2016, RACV finds it hugely disappointing that 2017 has started on an even worse note.

How bad is the problem?

There have been 14 fatalities to date this year, compared with eleven at the same time last year. This is on top of a 16 per cent jump in the annual road toll in 2016. Last year 292 people lost their lives and many more were seriously injured.

After 40 years of improvements, progress has been dramatically reversed in a short period of time. The increase in the annual road toll started in 2014 and has trended upwards since.

The latest Australian Automobile Association (AAA) Benchmarking the performance of the National Road Safety Strategy report shows that no real progress has been made on the five-year-old Federal and State strategies to reduce the road toll by 30 per cent.

The level of death, injury, and consequent community cost should not be accepted on our roads. The community needs to understand why our national road safety strategy has stalled. It may be that current programs are wrongly targeted or that they need more funding.

What should be done?

Safer roads

While an inquiry is underway, proven safety programs should continue. RACV wants the State and Federal Governments to commit to a four-year program of upgrades that will eliminate all sections of Victoria’s major rural highways that have a 1 or 2-star rating in the Australian Road Assessment Program. Previous RACV research showed that eliminating 1 and 2-star sections of major highways would cost nearly $600 million, saving an estimated 2,800 people from serious injury or death over the next 20 years.

Publishing star ratings for Victoria’s highway network would help the community understand how safe roads are, or aren’t, within their community.

In 2017, RACV will be pushing even harder to make sure increased funding is made available for Victoria’s rural roads, to ensure they receive crucial upgrades for road safety and also their long-term maintenance. This has started with RACV’s submission to the State Government, and AAA’s to the Federal Government, for their next budgets.

Cheaper safe vehicles

RACV will continue to advocate for better safety systems in vehicles. Crash avoidance and warning systems dramatically reduce the likelihood and severity of crashes. These technologies should be available in all new cars and governments need to mandate the fitting of these life-saving devices.

RACV would like to see state and federal governments work together to provide incentives to purchase safer cars. Discounted registration for five-star vehicles, especially for younger drivers, would be a great start.

What’s needed now?

RACV urges all road users to ensure they drive or ride safely, don’t drink or take drugs then drive, cut excessive speeds, and don’t get distracted by mobile phones.

The Federal and State Government need to step up and focus further attention on road safety as they prepare their budgets for the next three to four years, including funding the necessary critical reviews of their road safety strategies and actions. RACV expects governments to face up to the challenge and find ways to increase funding for safer roads, and to provide incentives for vehicle safety programs.

Written by Brian Negus, General Manager Public Policy
January 25, 2017