Address to XXIV World Road Congress – Taking Action for Safer Australian Roads
Mexico City, Mexico
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
Minister for Infrastructure & Transport
Leader of the House
Member for Grayndler
26 September 2011
This is the first time I have attended the World Road Congress – and my first visit to Mexico.
I would like to thank Organising Committee President, Fausto Barajas Cummings, for the invitation to join you at this important global forum.
Today’s topic is Safe Mobility. Ensuring safe mobility for our citizens is something the Australian Government feels very strongly about.
Our country is the largest island nation in the world. Our national and local road systems span vast distances with our roads totalling 815,000 kilometres.
These roads are the life lines that keep our communities connected and take our products and produce from the farm gate and the mines to our urban centres and major export hubs.
Two thirds of domestic freight is hauled by road, and private vehicles remain the principal mode of transport for the general public.
Each year, Australians drive more than 209 billion kilometres, or an average of more than 14,000 kilometres a year for each vehicle. These are large numbers by anyone’s standard.
Taking those figures into account, it is easy to understand why the Australian Government places a very high level of importance on road safety and the factors that contribute to road safety.
And that includes maintaining and enhancing our land transport infrastructure to ensure that Safe System principles are applied to all new road projects – including upgrades.
Under our Nation Building Program we are investing over $36 billion on road and rail infrastructure over the six year period up to 2014.
One of the programs being funded to the tune of $500 million under this investment is our Black Spots Program. This is a program that targets dangerous road locations where crashes are occurring.
By funding measures such as traffic signals and roundabouts we are able to reduce the risk of crashes.
A recent report by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics estimated that the Program is reducing fatal and casualty crashes at treated sites by 30 per cent. Property damage is being reduced by 26 per cent.
NATIONAL ROAD SAFETY STRATEGY
I am also pleased to be able to say that this year we released Australia’s National Road Safety Strategy for the decade to 2020.
On average, four people are killed and 90 are seriously injured every day on Australia’s roads. However, over the last four decades, deaths on Australian roads have decreased by two-thirds from 3,798 in 1970 – our worst year on record – to 1,358 in the period to August 2011.
However, the guiding vision of our strategy is that every person who is be killed or seriously injured on our roads is one too many.
Our road safety strategy is grouped in four cornerstone categories: Safe Roads – which I have touched on –Safe Speeds, Safe Vehicles and Safe People and I will touch briefly on each of these topics.
Firstly, safe speed.
Everyone in this room recognises the deadly correlation between excessive, or inappropriate, speed and death or serious injury as the result of a car crash.
Australia has relatively high speed limits across much its road network compared with the speed limits on similar roads in most OECD countries.
The majority of regional roads in Australia are single-carriageways where the default speed limit applies — 100 km/h in most jurisdictions. These roads have been found to consistently have much higher fatal crash rates than other road stereotypes.
As part of our National Road safety Strategy we are reviewing speed limits where risk levels are high and engineering solutions are neither feasible nor cost-effective. We want to develop new risk-based national speed limit guidelines to promote consistent limits while minimising multiple speed zones over short distances.
On the issue of Safe Vehicles, my Department includes a Vehicle Safety Standards Branch that has oversight of the Australian Design Rules (ADR) which set national standards for vehicle safety and emissions.
The ADRs are being aligned to international vehicle standards and Australia participates actively in the development of those international standards.
Australia is currently leading development of an international vehicle standard to improve the crashworthiness of vehicles in pole side impacts and this measure should lead to a significant reduction in occupant fatalities and serious injuries.
The Government has also become a member of the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP). This program provides consumers with independent information on the level of safety provided by vehicles in the event of a serious accident.
We have provided ANCAP with some $5 million over five years to increase the number of crash tests and vehicle safety ratings it undertakes. This complements the Government’s regulatory efforts to improve vehicle safety and provides consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions when buying a new car.
The Government has given a clear lead on this front and from 1 July 2011, passenger vehicles entering the Australian Government vehicle fleet are required to have five star ANCAP safety ratings.
SAFE PEOPLE – DRIVER EDUCATION
I mentioned earlier that Safe People is a key plank in our National Road Safety Strategy. To support this, we have a range of public education campaigns in place and have introduced a number of measures including random breath testing and roadside drug testing.
We have also introduced an innovative, nation-wide learner driver program — Keys2Drive. This program gives learner drivers and a parent or mentor, a free professional driving lesson from an accredited instructor together with instructional material and practical guides.
We are also developing programs to increase the opportunities for driving practice for disadvantaged learner drivers – particularly in Indigenous communities.
DECADE OF ACTION
In conclusion, I want to strongly reaffirm Australia’s commitment to the Decade of Action for Road Safety.
Australia co-sponsored the UN resolution which resulted in the Decade of Action and I was particularly pleased that the Australian Government’s official launch was attended by Members of Parliament and representatives of many state and local governments, industry and community organisations.
It is timely that Australia’s new National Road Safety Strategy coincides with the Decade of Action. Our strategy is closely aligned with the Global Plan for Action and is an important part of Australia’s response.
As a developed nation we have a responsibility to share our progress and to help other nations make inroads into this terrible problem.
In coming here for the 24th World Road Congress, we all recognise the immense global scale of the road trauma problem and the range of challenges faced by nations around the globe and the importance of sharing our experiences and our ideas.
And on that note, I want to thank you once again for the opportunity to join you here in Mexico City. I look forward to our discussions.