The Road Safety Roundabout 

As the Easter break gets underway, we will be looking at road safety and what can be done to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries on Australian roads through improved design, safety, use of technology and materials, best practices from overseas, and more.  

Why? Well, each holiday period, we pack up the family, take to the road, and head to far-flung corners of the country. That got us thinking: With all the advancements we have seen in engineering and automotive design, as well as changes in attitudes to driving, alcohol, speeding, and more, why are the number of fatalities in Australia increasing?  

Here’s the current state of play.  

As can be seen from the data, we are far better off than we were in the middle of the last century as mass vehicle ownership boomed and with it did the number of fatalities in total and when compared to per 100,000 population.  

But if you look at the data in detail, there is a worrying trend from 2015 onwards as the rate of improvement slows and worryingly, fatalities increase, which appears to be continuing.   

According to the UNSW1:  

Last year,1,266Australians died from road crashes involving at least one car and a driver, passenger, pedestrian or cyclist. Theeconomic cost of Australian road traumaexceeds A$27 billion each year. That’s 1.8% ofAustralia’s GDP. 

Australia hascommitted toan ambitious target of zero road deaths by 2050, known asVision Zero. 

The journey towards reducing road trauma has had both progress and setbacks. In the early 1990s, roads were claiming more than2,000 livesin Australia each year. 

Over the years, we managed to significantly reduce this number. By 2020,the annual deaths on the roads had dropped to around 1,097, almost halving the figure from three decades prior. 

However, recently, we’ve witnessed a worrying reversal: three consecutive years of increasing road deaths. 

Finding a Safe Exit  

Over the coming weeks, we will examine the following topics to determine what we should consider as we strive to achieve Vision Zero by 2050.  

From road design to safer modern cars, new technologies and materials, connected vehicle infrastructure, and autonomous driving, there appears to be a huge deal of change already on the way, but we are not sure it is all going to help.   

We will also collaborate with Kenn Beer, the Principal Engineer of Safe System Solutions, who is on a mission to create safer roads for our communities.  He is also part of the project team for the Austroads project: Charting a path to eliminating road death and serious injury. 

“It is essential that we talk more about road safety and how to minimise serious injuries and deaths,” says Kenn. “We also need to use the right terms; we must talk about crashes, collisions, and fatalities rather than accidents, which imply something less serious or something that couldn’t be avoided.” 

“The use of the term road “toll” needs to stop. This is not something we just pay every year without thinking about it; it is people dying on our roads and for every person killed another 10 are seriously injured, often with lifelong impacts. The numbers involved and the lasting harm caused are not something we would accept from any other form of transport.” 

So, join us on the Road Safety Roundabout as we seek an exit to a safer future.  

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