The RAA is 100 per cent behind the Australian Automobile Association's (AAA) ambitious road safety project, Safer Roads.
But what is Safer Roads, and where has it come from?
A new paradigm
It was evident at the recent public hearing of the parliamentary inquiry into national road safety that there is a lack of new ideas among policy makers about how to significantly reduce the current road toll.
The days of the ‘silver bullet’ – initiatives like random breath testing and compulsory seat belt laws -appear to be gone, and with them the impressive improvements of the final quarter of last century.
For the past six years, Australia’s road toll has remained stagnant at around 1,750 deaths each year.
With this background it seemed timely to the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) and the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), who combined represent the majority of road users, for a new national approach that moves road safety from its current status as a narrow transport issue to the wider stage of being seen as a preventable public health issue.
The RAA, a Constituent of AAA, is 100 per cent behind the campaign.
More than ever, it seems there is a need to thrust the issue of road safety into the nation’s social consciousness. The concept of a national Safer Roads Project grew from this belief.
The national Safer Roads Project is about creating a paradigm shift in the way we, the Australian community, deal with the issue of poor road safety.
For there to be substantial, sustained improvements in the road toll, we need to build a broad consensual agreement within the community that dying or being injured on the road is costly, tragic and preventable.
There are a number of ways to improve the death rate, many of which are behavioural.
If everyone always wore their seatbelts for example, it is possible that up to 340 fewer people would die each year in crashes (around 20 per cent of fatalities).
The problem is that behaviour is notoriously difficult to influence. In the case of seat belts, it is only a determined few who continue to ignore warnings.
The fact is however, that the majority of crashes occur because of human error - but to err is human. The Safer Roads Project recognises this fact, and focuses not on behaviour itself, but instead on the one area over which we have the greatest control, roads.
Our roads need to be designed to accommodate people’s mistakes; they need to be more forgiving. Relatively simple upgrades can have a profound effect. By sealing road shoulders for example, crash reductions of 20-40 per cent can be achieved at a cost of as little as $2 per sqm.
The high cost of poor road safety should make it a major public policy issue. However, governments and politicians are highly reliant on community attitudes when setting the political and policy agenda, and at present, road safety does not rate as a major issue.
For there to be substantive improvements in our roads, there needs to be active community engagement in the process. The profile of road safety must be raised among policy makers.