From the Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS)
Victoria’s road safety plan is “clearly not on a target” and must be morphed into a new strategy using evidence-based approaches, according to a group tasked with saving the lives of those at the centre of the trauma. The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons says Victoria’s road safety plan is “clearly not on a target” and must be morphed into a new strategy.
The influential body, representing more than 1400 surgeons statewide, says the state’s road trauma is a “serious public health problem of epidemic proportions”. It is one of several key groups to have made submissions to a parliamentary inquiry investigating the rise in Victoria’s 2019 road toll.
Last year, 268 people died on Victoria’s roads — an increase of nearly 26 per cent on the year before. Greater Geelong also recorded its highest road toll in three years with 15 fatalities. In a broad-ranging review the Legislative Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee will examine how the Geelong-based Transport Accident Commission’s Towards Zero 2016-2020 road safety strategy plans to reduce fatalities.
The strategy, which aimed for 200 or less lives lost annually by 2020, is not on track, surgeons said. After the announcement of the review, committee chair Nazih Elasmar said it would also examine current drug and alcohol testing capabilities, speed enforcement, distraction and ways to improve the accessibility of new and safe cars. “Our road toll has risen (in 2019), with more than 240 lives lost,” Mr Elasmar said. “As a community we need to work together to look at why this is happening and what can be done to turn this trend around.”
In a written submission to the inquiry, surgeons Susan Shedda and Christian Kenfield also called for more aggressive drug and alcohol testing, blood alcohol testing for all road casualty patients over 16 and the national harmonisation of blood alcohol limits across driver categories.
“Strong data about the prevalence of alcohol and drug use while driving will enable better responses to be developed and provided a clear understanding of the scale to which alcohol and drugs contribute to road trauma,” they said. Ms Shedda and Mr Kenfield said better reporting on the location of serious crashes linked to other road conditions, like weather or road quality, could help authorities prevent future crashes.
Last month, chair of the college’s trauma committee Dr John Crozier said doctors were increasingly seeing road trauma due to drivers using mobile phones and backed calls for Queensland’s $1000 fine for phone use to be introduced in Victoria. In their submission, Ms Shedda and Mr Kenfield said distraction involving mobile phones was a fatal factor in many crashes. “Mobile phone use by drivers is underestimated and current penalties are not sufficient to deter drivers from using them,” they said.
The surgeons said while the inquiry was welcomed there was a “growing sense of frustration” that it was taking too long to implement proven life saving initiatives.
TAC director of road safety Samantha Cockfield said the increase in fatalities last year was a “heartbreaking reminder” the work was far from over. “This inquiry is an opportunity to take a deep look at the factors contributing to road trauma and how we can continue to reduce death and serious injury on our roads,” she said.
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