Keynote Address: Second Global High-level Conference on Road Safety—Parliamentarians for Global Road Safety—Building a Legislators' network



18 November 2015

Brasilia, Brazil

Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to speak today.

As the Australian Government Minister responsible for Road Safety, I am conscious of the responsibility I carry to ensure that the policy and legislative priorities that our government pursues to continue to enhance road safety in Australia and I am supported in this by my parliamentary colleagues.

In May 2014, a network of Australian Parliamentarians joined together to form the Parliamentary Friends of Road Safety Group. The group has the worthy aim of elevating awareness of road safety within the Federal parliament.

In Australia our National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020 sets targets and policy directions that we work towards alongside state and territory governments.

Under Australia's Federal system, the Australian Government, and Australia's States and Territories cooperatively pursue our various road safety responsibilities under the Strategy. Responsibilities are clearly divided between the Federal and State governments.

Our states and territories are responsible for matters like road rules and traffic enforcement, vehicle registration, driver licensing and the majority of road construction.

The Australian Government's major roles relate to the allocation of road funding, setting standards for new vehicle safety and national monitoring, coordination and leadership.

It is pleasing to note that all levels of government in Australia continue to work together to ensure the division of responsibilities does not hinder our progress in road safety.

We all recognise that this work it is too important to let political boundaries impede its progress.

Australia has seen a decline in road deaths over recent years and we are on track to reach our target of a reduction in road deaths of 30 per cent under our national strategy—which also coincides with the Decade of Action for Road Safety.

Australia has come a long way in road safety. Look back to 1970 and you will find that an astonishing 3,800 Australians lost their lives in a single year of road carnage. The subsequent public outrage and an unprecedented government resolve to act led to a watershed in Australian road safety.

The period between 1978 and 2004 stands as a remarkable quarter-century of sustained decline in road deaths.

Our annual fatality numbers were more than halved, from 3,700 to less than 1,600. And the rate of death per 100,000 people fell by a massive 70 per cent, from 25.8 to 7.9 deaths.

This improvement did not come about by chance and good fortune. Australian governments systematically introduced a range of successful road safety reforms during this period, often through the pioneering efforts of a single state or territory.

This was particularly the case with key behavioural interventions targeting drink driving, speeding and seatbelt use.

The Commonwealth also played a prominent role. In 1970 the Government had commissioned an expert group on road safety to inquire into the fundamental causes of road trauma.

This group brought a sharp strategic focus and a sense of national endeavour to the road safety task and championed the adoption of research-driven measures. It also led to substantial investment in the development of a safer road network, and put in place a national regulatory system for vehicle design improvement.

In 1992 we established our first National Road Safety Strategy, conceived as a framework for formally coordinating the road safety activities of federal, state and territory governments. Among its objectives was the goal of reducing annual road deaths to 10 per 100,000 people by the year 2001.

As it turned out, we actually achieved that target in 1997 and then turned our attention to developing a new strategy for the coming decade.

Since then we have gone much further and have now reached a rate of 5 deaths per 100,000 people—and there is more work to do.

With the commencement of our current strategy, in 2011, Australian governments agreed to the ambitious vision that no one should be killed or seriously injured on our roads.

This will not be achieved under the current strategy, though we hope to at least surpass the 30 per cent reduction targets for deaths and serious injuries. But it is important to have a vision to strive towards.

Globally, the new target that has been set as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) under the UN Agenda for Sustainable Development is a very serious challenge: to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents.

I am alert to the lifesaving benefits that new and emerging vehicle technology can provide and how the wider application of existing technologies can prevent crashes and reduce global road deaths and serious injuries worldwide.

Australia is making a contribution to international road safety efforts, a recent example being our leadership in developing a better international standard for side impact protection in light vehicles—which we are now adopting and would encourage others to adopt also.

This kind of work—to make vehicles that better protect occupants when crashes occur—is critical.

And there are a number of established and new technologies that can stop crashes from happening.

Electronic stability control is a great example of this kind of technology, and is well established in in Australia—it has been mandated in passenger vehicles since 2011 and will be mandated in light commercial vehicles from this month.

A number of priority actions detailed in Australia's National Road Safety Strategy Action Plan (under our National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020) deal specifically with the wider use of existing crash prevention technologies.

We are moving forward with anti-lock brake systems (ABS) for new motorcycles, as well as electronic stability control (ESC) for new heavy vehicles.

In October 2015, independent research undertaken by the Monash University Accident Research Centre in Australia found that ABS reduced motorcycle injury crashes by over 31 per cent, and it was even more effective for crashes resulting in serious injury.

We will be discussing these results with motorcycle interest groups and the public in Australia, with a view to examining options to increase ABS in the motorcycle fleet—one of which would be by mandating international standards for ABS through Australia's national new vehicle standards, the Australian Design Rules (ADRs).

Around the world the New Car Assessment Programs (NCAPs) have a vital role in providing independent consumer information and promoting and encouraging the manufacture of safer vehicles—going beyond the standards set by regulation. This has been a crucial pathway to introduce the community to new life-saving technologies.

The Australian Government is a member and a funding partner of the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), along with the New Zealand and state and territory governments and other partners.

We are working with state and territory governments, the Australasian NCAP and industry to promote the uptake of new vehicle technologies with high safety potential—with a particular focus on Advanced Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning and Intelligent Speed Advisory systems.

The Australian Government is committed to delivering the safest and youngest fleet to our citizens.

Like many other public and private sector organisations in Australia, we only purchase passenger cars with a five star ANCAP rating.

We have also made efforts to encourage key businesses to purchase vehicles fitted with advanced safety technologies such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB).

We continually monitor the results of research across the world on new developments in vehicle safety.

I am excited by the prospect of a global network of road safety legislators and possibilities it creates to strengthen laws and get us closer to our goals.

History demonstrates that we can improve outcomes.

And the future demands that we, as Parliamentarians and Legislators, work together to improve outcomes in our countries and across the globe.

Thank you.