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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3207

Mrs DARLING —On behalf of the Standing Committee on Road Safety, I present the report of the Committee on the Impact of Advertising Standards on Road Safety, together with the minutes of proceedings and the transcript of evidence.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Mrs DARLING —by leave-Death and injury on our roads is not something we should ever decide to live with. Each year in Australia over 3,000 people die on the roads. More than 30,000 people annually suffer injuries serious enough for them to be admitted to hospital. The total economic cost is estimated at over $3,000m every year. The cost in massive physical pain and emotional suffering is immeasurable. This scenario is intolerable, and when one considers that while 17 per cent of the population are under 25 they account for 41 per cent of deaths or injuries on our roads, it becomes clear that the Australian adult society must pursue with vigour any potential means of relieving the problem.

We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend the problem does not exist. Nor can we give up and say the solutions are too difficult to find or to implement.

Many factors contribute to crashes, and few are due solely to one cause. This makes it extremely difficult to find easy solutions which will have dramatic results. One of the major factors is the human element-the attitude and behaviour of the driver, the cyclist and the pedestrian. In almost all crashes human error plays a major role. Too often crashes result principally from the poor attitude of drivers who perceive the roads as a playground and their vehicles as toys. They must be brought to realise that today there is simply no place for exuberant, careless or selfish behaviour on our roads. The most selfish behaviour of all is that of the drunk driver who willingly impairs his ability to drive and puts other people's lives in danger. Alcohol is a factor in 50 per cent of crashes involving a fatality.

Clearly, it is time to look into the influences which shape the attitudes of drivers. Of course there are many such influences. The media undoubtedly plays a prominent role. Many people appearing before the Committee have expressed concern that negative influences on road safety are being pushed through the media. Complaints about advertisements in particular were made to the Committee. Those complaints concerned the perceived encouragement of unsafe behaviour by drivers or passengers in car advertisements, and misleading advertisements concerning the fitting of unsafe parts to vehicles. In July this year the Committee decided to hold an urgent inquiry into advertising standards to see whether the standards properly serve the interests of road safety and whether they are being enforced adequately.

The Committee has unanimously agreed to a number of conclusions and recommendations as a result of its inquiry, and these are set out in the report just presented to the House. We found that some advertisers display a lack of understanding of, or perhaps lack of concern with, the potentially damaging effects of the advertisement on road safety. The Committee believes certain advertisements can and do affect the attitudes of viewers, particularly those who are impressionable or who are still forming their views of what kind of behaviour is acceptable in society and how dangerous that behaviour is likely to be. In short, if affects the young driver. The young are particularly vulnerable . Existing advertising standards in Australia serve the interests of road safety only in a piecemeal way. The separate advertising codes which partially cover road safety issues could be tinkered with and improved, but Australia urgently needs a national road safety code. Such a code should cover all products advertised in all media. It would also serve to indicate to the advertising industry the extent of their social responsibility to consider the possible impact on road safety when trying to sell products.