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A HISTORY OF ROAD FATALITIES IN AUSTRALIA
CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE TURNAROUND
Major contributions to this turnaround have come from improvements to roads and vehicles, enactment of road safety legislation, intensive public education and enhanced police enforcement technology. The following are some key developments.
VEHICLE SAFETY ENHANCEMENTS
The application of Australian Design Rules for Motor Vehicle Safety has been the mechanism for implementing a host of mandatory safety requirements. These include:
By 1973, legislation had been passed in all Australian States and Territories for compulsory wearing of fitted seat belts in motor vehicles and the wearing of protective helmets by motor cycle riders and their pillion passengers.
Legislation for random breath testing was progressively introduced nationwide, firstly by Victoria (1976), followed by the Northern Territory (1980), South Australia (1981), New South Wales and the ACT (1982), Tasmania (1983) and Queensland and Western Australia (1988). Since its introduction, random breath testing has been intensified and refined to be one of the most extensive programs for mass breath testing of drivers worldwide. Commencing with South Australia in 1973, a number of States and Territories have also legislated for compulsory blood testing on crash participants who attend hospital.
A range of complementary measures has also been put in place, including:
Attitudinal change has seen drink driving become largely unacceptable within the general Australian population.
In 1990, Victoria made wearing of bicycle helmets compulsory, with the other States and Territories following through 1991 and 1992. At that time no other country had compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets.
IMPROVED ENFORCEMENT TECHNOLOGY
Enforcement technology, such as speed cameras, has made a major impact since being introduced in the late 1980s, first in Victoria and later in most other jurisdictions. Other innovations include laser based speed measuring devices and red light cameras.
Australia's roads are today considered to be significantly safer than in the past. The Commonwealth Government's Black Spots programs have encouraged individuals and groups to nominate dangerous sections of road for specific improvement.
Commonwealth funding has seen major upgrading of the National Highway. Other roads have been the target of considerable work by State and local governments in shoulder sealing, use of audible edge-lining and other delineation treatments, removal of roadside hazards and improved speed zoning.
All levels of government in Australia are heavily committed to reducing further the number and severity of road crashes and improving the efficiency of the road network. The turnaround that has been achieved in Australia's road safety performance since 1970 has highlighted the effectiveness of a resolute, coordinated approach by government.
Notwithstanding the progress attained so far, much remains to be achieved. Recent work2 has suggested that a reduction to 860 annual road fatalities is potentially achievable by the year 2020. The Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments recently agreed to set a target of no more than 1,600 annual road crash deaths by the year 2005. While no level of crash death or injury is acceptable, this target is intended to focus efforts over the next few years.
Road safety stakeholders have already set down a detailed road safety strategy and implementation plan3 for the immediate years ahead. This sets out a detailed plan of coordinated policies and legislation supported by enforcement, community involvement and public education activities.
1 Bureau of Transport Economics 2000, Road Crash Costs in Australia. Report 102.
2 Vulcan, P. 1997, Predicting road fatalities for 2001 and beyond. Paper presented to the Road Safety Research and Enforcement Conference, Hobart, November 1997.
3 National Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan 1996, published by the Federal Office of Road Safety on behalf of the National Road Safety Implementation Task Force.
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