‘Tis the season to drive so others survive

This holiday season it is up to all Australians to take responsibility for their actions and stay safe on our road.

Put simply, don’t be an idiot behind the wheel.

During the holiday period, more people will be using our road network, be it in vehicles, walking or cycling on the footpath or while working, delivering the goods we rely on. We all want to arrive at our destinations safely and ready to spend quality time with our loved ones, wherever they may be.

From November 2022 through to November 2023, 1,253 people have been killed on our roads which is an increase of 73 people compared to the 12 months prior. Each person killed on our roads is a tragic loss.

Every death on our road’s shatters countless families and communities. No one should receive that phone call this holiday season.

This holiday season, it is the responsibility of all road users to keep themselves and others safe. We truly are only as safe as those around us.

The Australian Government is committed to achieving “Vision Zero”, that is zero deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 2050. This year’s horrific road toll has only strengthened the Government’s commitment to achieving Vision Zero.

In early 2023, the Albanese Government released the National Road Safety Action Plan 2023-25 which highlights the Government’s commitment to collective efforts, and practical measures to enhance safety on our roads.

The Action Plan outlines clear responsibilities, measurable actions, and specific timeframes to reduce road trauma by effectively targeting nine priority areas within the next decade.

Since then, the Government has been working to deliver on all of the actions outlined in the Action Plan; including,

The Australian Government's Black Spot Program focuses on simple but impactful road safety treatments along high-risk road locations. I am proud that funding for the program is set to progressively increase to $150 million annually. Programs like this pay off, saving the community much more than what's spent on the relatively small road improvements.

Nominations for Black Spot locations are welcome throughout the year from state and local governments, community groups, road users, industry, and importantly individuals.

Local governments are in charge of maintaining and upgrading over 75% of Australia’s road network. The Roads to Recovery Program helps our much-loved local government to build and maintain local roads across the country. Annual funding for the Roads to Recovery Program is set to reach a total commitment of $1 billion per year.

It has been a particularly horrific year for cycling deaths on our roads, with 37 cyclists killed on our roads in the 12 months ending November 2023. With the push to more active modes of transport, the Australian Government has funded the Safer Cycling Project, delivered through the Amy Gillett Foundation. This project is focused on improving the skills of local government workers to deliver better, safer infrastructure for cyclists. This model, which distributes knowledge across local governments, will deliver long term benefits for cyclists and cycling infrastructure.

The Albanese Government has created the Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program which will be delivered through $200 million annually across all states and territories.

The Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program will improve how we move around on our local areas, making transportation better, safer and more productive and will be formally launched after the next Budget is handed down in May.

The Albanese Government is getting shovel ready to deliver our $140 million program to build and upgrade heavy vehicle rest areas across the country. We know just how important quality rest areas are for our truck drivers, and I am looking forward to announcing the first round of projects under the initiative in early 2024.

I am proud that after many years of talk, the Australian Government, along with all states and territories, are weeks away from signing the first ever Data Sharing Agreement. This Agreement will outline what road safety data states and territories must provide to the federal government and when the data must be provided by.

As we end 2023 and move around this holiday season, my message could not be simpler – don’t be an idiot behind the wheel. Obey the road rules - buckle up, do not drink and drive, do not speed and do not take risks. Importantly, drive to the conditions of the road and the environment around you. Doing anything else just isn’t worth it.

Please, drive so others survive not only during the holidays but always.

Originally published in The Mercury, 22 December 2023.