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Monday, 21 June 2004
Page: 30868

Mr NEVILLE (12:41 PM) —On behalf of the Standing Committee on Transport and Regional Services, I present the committee's report, incorporating a dissenting report, entitled National road safety: eyes on the road ahead, together with the minutes of proceedings and evidence received by the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Mr NEVILLE —Road safety is one of the most important issues confronting Australian people in their daily lives. It is estimated that, in total, some 163,000 Australians have been killed in road accidents. In economic terms, the cost of road trauma is some $15 billion a year. In an effort to mitigate this cost, governments and industry have invested huge sums of money in an effort to create safer vehicles, roads and driver behaviour. In 2003, 1,634 people died on Australia's roads. This was a slight improvement on the previous year but still marks a worrying trend.

After two decades of continuous improvement in Australia's road safety record, road fatalities have reached a plateau. With this in mind, in 2003 the Minister for Transport and Regional Services asked the Standing Committee on Transport and Regional Services to investigate matters relating to the management of road safety in Australia—specifically, to review the current National Road Safety Strategy and related action plans, identify additional measures or approaches that could reduce road trauma, and identify factors impeding progress towards reducing the road toll and the means of overcoming those impediments.

The committee's report, National road safety: eyes on the road ahead, addresses a wide range of road safety issues of national significance. The report examines road safety trends and strategies in Australia, specifically the National Road Safety Strategy 2001-10 and the National Road Safety Action Plans for 2001-02 and for 2003-04. Amongst other things, the committee is concerned that the National Road Safety Strategy pays insufficient attention to the costs in the mitigation of serious injury. The report recommends incorporating targets for the reduction of serious injuries in the National Road Safety Strategy. It also recommends implementing stricter targets, time lines and accountabilities in the National Road Safety Action Plans.

The report also looks at the important issue of speed management. Evidence presented to the committee clearly indicates that speed is a major factor in road trauma. Nonetheless, the various states and territories still tend to go their own way in dealing with this issue. The committee has argued for a better coordinated national approach to speed management. The report addresses the safety of the road environment, including the need for greater investment in low-cost road safety measures and for funding of black spots. This is an area of national investment identified as having the greatest impact on reducing the road toll in the short term.

The report recommends increased funding for road safety measures, including black spots. It also calls for road design safety and maintenance standards to reflect the needs of road users, including motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians. The education, training and licensing of drivers is also a matter of great importance. In its report, the committee has argued for a balance between public education and enforcement. Both have a vital role to play in road safety. The committee has also recommended the development of a uniform licensing system across Australia.

New technology has opened the way for greater levels of vehicle safety. The committee has argued for a comprehensive review of Australian design rules to capture the benefits of new technology and for the federal government to join the Australian New Car Assessment Program. This program has been vital in providing safety information and vehicle ratings to new car consumers and the committee believes that the Commonwealth has a role in funding and directing such important safety research.

Finally, the report addresses issues surrounding heavy vehicles, vulnerable road users and youth. Among key recommendations are measures addressing driver safety in the road transport industry, including problems of driver fatigue; the development and implementation of national road safety strategies for cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians; and the development and implementation of a national youth road safety strategy. Overall, the report highlights the need for a national approach to road safety.