Safety Strategy at Standstill

The AAA’s first Road Safety Benchmarking report measuring 2020 shows there was relatively no change in the nation’s road toll for the 12 months to March, compared with the corresponding period in the previous year. In the 12 months to March 2020, there were 1,154 fatalities on our roads compared to 1,161 fatalities in the 12 months to March 2019.

This report covers the period that immediately precedes the height of COVID-19 travel restrictions in Australia. It confirms that immediately prior to the national lockdown, progress towards achieving the National Road Safety Strategy targets to reduce deaths and trauma had come to a virtual standstill. The Commonwealth and all State and Territory governments committed to reducing the road toll and injury rates by at least 30% by the end of this year.

As at March 2020, prior to the COVID-19 travel restrictions, not a single state was on track to meet that target. Worse still, some states have recorded serious increases, with the road toll in South Australia soaring by 27.5%, in Tasmania by 23.3%, and Victoria by 11.5%.

While this report confirms the worrying reality that the nation’s road toll is relatively unchanged over the past year, it does indicate that severe injuries have declined marginally. In analysing that data however, it is important to note that the trauma centres reporting severe injuries have changed since March 2018. As a result, the data does not allow for accurate direct comparisons.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments have demonstrated what can be achieved when there is cooperation and a laser-focus on tackling serious health issues.

Governments have proven that consistent data can be collected and reported in real time; that the success of public health campaigns can be instantly changed, nuanced or targeted depending on what the health data is showing; and that Australians themselves will readily change their practices when governments demonstrate and communicate an urgency.By contrast, in the almost ten years since governments collectively committed to road safety targets, many are still not even measured.

There are great learnings from the collective response of governments to COVID-19, which the AAA will lobby to ensure are adopted as part of road safety responses going forward. These learnings give real hope for the next National Road Safety Strategy to take effect from next year.

Lives depend on it.