Road safety is everyone's responsibility

Each and every death on our roads is one too many.

National Road Safety Week is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the far-reaching impact of road trauma, and, importantly, encourage all drivers to get home safely.

Tragically, around 1,200 people are killed and a further 40,000 are seriously injured on our roads each year.

In its tenth year, the 2023 National Road Safety Week initiative has a particular focus on young people. This theme is fitting given young Australians are over-represented in our terrible road toll.

As the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, I have heard first-hand the harrowing stories from families and communities affected when young people’s lives are cut short on our roads.

Tasmanians will remember the heartbreaking crash on the South Arm Highway in October last year. The driver lost control; three young people, under 30, lost their lives. With so much life ahead of them, the tightknit Sandford community was left shattered.

I heard from the mother of 19-year-old Drew, who died while driving alone on Northern Territory roads that he knew well. His vehicle flipped and went down an embankment. Police ruled out speed. Drew made one fatal decision: he did not fasten his seat belt.

Devastatingly, stories like this are too common. Young lives lost too soon, families and communities left with grief that will never heal.

In 2022, there were 1,194 deaths on Australian roads. Five per cent - 62 deaths – were people under 17. Twenty per cent – 230 deaths – were aged 17 to 25 years. Young adults also accounted for one fifth of the 40,000 road trauma hospitalisations.

We need to do more to ensure young people are safe on our roads; this starts by demonstrating responsible driving from an early age. 

We must raise community awareness about the worst-case scenarios of texting and scrolling on devices and smartphones while driving. And, make it clear, this scenario is that you, or another person, is killed.

This National Road Safety Week, I pledge to remove distractions and never use my phone while driving. I pledge to drive safely and not put others at risk through speed, fatigue or driving under the influence.

I pledge to protect vulnerable road users, especially those who work on our roads, by slowing down and giving them the space. And I encourage every Tasmanian to join me because road safety is everyone’s responsibility.

This opinion piece was first published in the Hobart Mercury on 17/05/2023.