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Government commits $2.2 billion to road safety

Safety matters: Industry groups have welcomed the federal government’s decision to set up an Office of Road Safety and invest heavily into road renewal, infrastructure and a new innovation fund.

New Office of Road Safety to be created amid funding boost for roads, infrastructure

29 Mar 2019

THE federal government has promised to spend an additional $2.2 billion in road safety funding to continue work under existing programs that focus on repairing regional roads, fixing dangerous black spots, renewing bridges and improving safety and productivity in the heavy commercial vehicle sector. 


The Coalition will also establish an Office of Road Safety and spend $12 million on a new Road Safety Innovation Fund “to support research and development in priority areas such as regional road safety, driver distraction from mobile devices, protecting vulnerable road users and reducing drug driving”. 


Announced by prime minister Scott Morrison ahead of next week’s federal budget, the $2.2 billion pledge includes an extra $1.1 billion in local government funding for rural and regional areas under the ‘Roads to Recovery’ program and another $550 million in the successful black spot program, which is said to have been effective in reducing serious crashes by 30 per cent on average.


A further $571.1 million will be spent on improving the safety and efficiency of heavy vehicle operations via the bridges renewal program, heavy vehicle safety and productivity program and heavy vehicle safety initiatives (known as HVSI).


 “More than a thousand Australians died on our roads last year,” Mr Morrison said. “That’s devastating. These are mums who didn’t make it home from work, or children that didn’t make it to school.


“These programs mean local councils decide where the money should be spent. They are in the best position to identify black spots and problem areas. 


“This is why a strong economy is so important. It allows us to invest in safer roads that save lives.”


Deputy prime minister, Nationals’ leader and minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development, Michael McCormack, said the new Office of Road Safety will provide “a national point for collaboration and leadership on key road safety priorities, working closely with states, territories, local government and key road safety stakeholders”.


The new office and extra funding have been welcomed by key industry organisations such as the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and the Australian Automobile Association (AAA).


 ANCAP chair Wendy Machin described the new Office of Road Safety as “a welcome and necessary move to keep road safety top-of-mind”.


“The additional funding will help focus efforts as we continue to work towards addressing the road safety challenges,” she said.


“While the majority of jurisdictions achieved a reduction in road fatalities last year, road fatalities and serious injuries remain at rates above that needed to meet the reduction targets set by the government.


 “Even with advancements in vehicle safety technology, we still face a challenge through an ageing fleet where Australians are four times more likely to die in a crash in a vehicle 15 years or older.


“With the establishment of a federal Office of Road Safety, we would like to see efforts focus on initiatives to encourage fleet renewal – to reduce the age of vehicles involved in serious crashes.”


She also welcomed the specific funding for road safety innovation, emphasising that “innovation is key to advancing road safety – both from the road user side, but also from industry”.


“If we continue to do more of the same, ANCAP analysis shows around 6000 people will still die on our roads over the next five years,” she said.


AAA chief executive Michael Bradley, whose organisation represents around eight million motorists through the various state and territory motoring clubs, said the Office of Road Safety was “a serious and meaningful step towards ensuring a co-ordinated national focus and rollout of road safety initiatives”.


“The federal government’s commitment to establish an Office of Road Safety should put some real grunt behind national efforts to understand why our road safety strategy has failed, and what changes need to be made,” he said.


 Mr Bradley said the office should be “resourced and empowered” to properly respond to the recommendations delivered to the federal government six months ago by the independent inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy (2011-2020).


 Key recommendations from this inquiry included establishing a national road safety entity, committing a minimum $3 billion a year to a road safety fund and setting a “vision zero” target (no road deaths) for 2050, with an interim target of zero fatalities for all major capital city CBD areas, and high-volume highways, by 2030.


“The AAA looks forward to understanding the detail that sits behind these announcements and the funding arrangements of next week’s budget,” Mr Bradley said.


“Both the government and opposition next week have the opportunity to demonstrate that both sides of politics are serious about road safety.”

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