Feb 3, 2010

Ministerial Statement – National Road Safety Council

Transcript of Ministerial Statement

National Road Safety Council

The Hon Anthony Albanese MP

The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,

Regional Development and Local Government

Leader of the House

Member for Grayndler

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

This morning I addressed the inaugural meeting of the National Road Safety Council that is occurring today in Parliament House.

The Council was established in 2009 by the Australian Transport Council to act as an advisory body on road safety matters, and to support the implementation of key road safety measures set out in the National Road Safety Strategy, Action Plans and other ATC agreed initiatives.

The Commonwealth and every one of our state and territory Governments is committed to improving road safety, a fact demonstrated through the unanimous support of all jurisdictions for the establishment of this Council and agreement to jointly fund it through a National Partnership Agreement.

The Council, and its ambassadors will have a key role in spreading the road safety message to our community.

Road trauma is one of the major public health problems facing this country.

The harsh reality was brought home in news headlines and TV footage throughout December and January after crashes involving young people, heavy vehicles and hit and run accidents.

It is important to recognise that much good work has been achieved over the last 40 years to make our roads safer.

Two new reports by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport & Regional Economics released today confirm this.

According to the first report – Roads deaths in Australia 1925-2008 – annual road deaths have dropped from a peak of 3,798 in 1970 to an average of 1,641 between 2000 and 2008, even though the number of vehicles on the road has increased more than three-fold.

The second report – Cost of Road Crashes in Australia – calculated that the annual social cost of road crashes declined by about $1.5 billion in real terms between 1996 and 2006.

Despite this 7.5 per cent reduction in a decade, the total cost in 2006 still remained significant at $17.85 billion – equivalent to 1.7 per cent of GDP.

Tougher laws, better policing, improved driver training, better road design, extensive education campaigns and new vehicle technologies have all contributed to a large reduction in the frequency, severity and economic cost of road crashes over recent decades.

But there is more to do.

The 1,509 people who died on our roads in 2009 represent loss, grief and heartache for families and communities across our nation.

Of course, the number of deaths on our roads is only the tip of the iceberg.

The latest hospitalisation figures published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that nearly 33,000 people were seriously injured in crashes during 2006-07.

Many of these people are now living with severe, life-long injuries.

Sadly, these figures have been trending upwards for several years.

Road trauma disproportionately affects young, healthy, Australians. About 30% of those killed, and 37% of those hospitalised in road crashes are under 25 years old.

As a society, we nurture these young people, we educate them and we invest our hopes in them, only to see those hopes dashed.

We see the images in our papers and TV screens, and at roadside memorials.

We may know friends and family who have lost loved ones.

We must do more.

This is not an issue that can be solved solely by governments – it is an issue that affects everyone in the community and we all have to do something about it.

Better roads are part of the solution, as is the use of improved vehicle technology, such as Electronic Stability Control.

But driver attitudes also need to change.

I recently released a Survey of Community Attitudes to Road Safety, an annual survey of 1,615 Australians found that while most are well informed about road safety matters and support the efforts of police to catch and punish those that break the law, the personal conduct of most leaves a lot to be desired.

According to the Survey:

  • 61 per cent of respondents said they use their mobile phone while driving,
  • 25 per cent consider it acceptable to speed ‘if you are driving safely’;
  • 16 per cent of respondents had fallen asleep at the wheel, with 43 per cent having done so more than once;
  • And 6 per cent of respondents – and 11 per cent of those younger than 25 – ‘always, nearly always or mostly’ drive at least 10 km/h over the speed limit;

It really isn’t good enough.

We need to get that message through loud and clear, and we have to reinforce it with each other.

We need to be doing much, much more as a nation to prevent deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

And that is precisely why the Council has been formed.

Ten years ago, transport Ministers established the current National Road Safety Strategy, 2001-2010.

The strategy set a target to reduce the rate of road deaths by 40 per cent, from 9.3 to 5.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

To date we have achieved a 26 per cent reduction, but it is very unlikely that we will meet the 40 per cent target in the final year of the strategy.

The National Road Safety Council has an important role to play in ensuring that the very best road safety measures and practices are taken up and implemented in all Australian states and territories.

The membership of the council has been determined on the basis of their effectiveness as key opinion makers and community leaders.

We look to the Council to help us engage the wider community, and help us put road safety on the social agenda.

The Council draws on many sectors that have an interest in advancing road safety:

The Chair, Roger Cook, chairs the Motor Accident Commission of South Australia, for which road safety is core business.

We also have some leading experts in road safety research and policy.

Dr Soames Job is an experienced road safety researcher who has been able to put his knowledge into practice as director of the New South Wales Centre for Road Safety in the New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority.

Professor Ian Johnston, is a former director of the Monash University Accident Research Centre had a key role in a nation TV campaign demonstrating how small reductions in travel speed van have a major effect on accidents. He is now applying his knowledge as a deputy chairman of the National Transport Commission.

Freda Crucitti is president of the Australian Automobile Association, representing millions of Australian motorists, with a keen interest in vehicle safety ratings and safer roads.

Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallick has strong links with Indigenous communities, for whom road safety is a major concern, and a big contributor to the gap in Indigenous health outcomes which we are trying to close.

Wayne Gardner, a former world motorcycle and motor racing champion is committed to making a difference on road safety and brings an ability to cut through with this message to the public.

Ann Bunnell has strong links with the planning community which has a key role in building road safety into our urban environments.

In addition, our National Road Safety Ambassadors include business leaders, role models and media personalities with the potential to help us engage and mobilise the broader community in advancing road safety.

Lindsay Fox heads up one of Australia’s largest road transport companies and is passionate about road safety.

Mr David Wirrpanda, a former champion AFL footballer and West Australian Young Australian of the Year, is a strong role model for Indigenous Australians.

Melissa Doyle is one of the anchors on the Channel 7 Sunrise program and is keen to promote road safety to families around Australia.

Chief Superintendent John Hartley is from the NSW Police Force.

Neil Mitchell AO has used his position as talk back host on Melbourne’s Radio 3AW to promote solutions on road safety.

One of the first challenges for the Council will be to assist governments with the development of the next National Road Safety Strategy for 2011-2020.

Transport Ministers have already agreed that the new strategy will set an ambitious vision and targets.

There are many other stakeholders with an interest in advancing road safety and I expect that the Council will focus on opportunities to build productive relationships and maximise the support of relevant stakeholders.

The National Road Safety Council has the support of all transport ministers across the nation. It is the first time that the Australian and State and Territory Governments have established a body to drive a truly national approach to road safety.