In the wake of some terrible road smashes during the holiday season (for example, this and this one), Croakey has been wondering about what might be done to improve road safety and reduce the toll.

I had a quick browse in various places – looking for some sort of national resource that sets out evidence-based recommendations for road safety interventions, together with an overview of how widely or well these have been implemented in the various jurisdictions.

But I haven’t been able to find such a thing, and would appreciate any tips from Croakey readers.

Meanwhile, here, briefly, is where my travels have taken me thus far…

First stop was the Community Guide in the US, which I like because it explicitly sets out the levels of evidence for various interventions. Its section on motor vehicle injury prevention has a series of recommendations around the use of seat belts, child seat belts and alcohol-impaired driving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also had some useful fact sheets, such as this one about young drivers and related interventions.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has some useful info.

The downside is that many of these resources are very US-specific and not particularly relevant to the Australian context. It seems quite amazing, for example, that about one-third of motorcycle riders in the US do not wear helmets. Still, it’s an improvement from 2005, when about half did not.

Meanwhile, in WA, the Office of Road Safety has published a road safety strategy for 2008-2020, which suggests, amongst other things, that the community is not ready for the sort of speed restrictions which could prevent thousands of deaths and injuries for a relatively low cost.

The NSW Centre for Road Safety, which began operations in 2008, says its job is to “change cultural values on road safety in NSW” and that its first mission is to convince drivers that speeding is socially unacceptable.

And here is the NSW Government’s response to recommendations arising from a Road Safety Roundtable held last year, but I’m not sure how useful this document is. It gives no sense of the priority, relative value or cost-effectiveness of the options canvassed.

At a national level, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government links to various reports and publications, including the National Road Safety Strategy, which expires this year.

The Department notes that the news is not all bad: “…road trauma levels have declined dramatically over the last four decades, despite substantial population growth and a threefold increase in registered motor vehicles. Between 1970 and 2008, the nation’s annual road fatality rate declined from 30.4 to 6.8 deaths per 100,000 people.”

However, this is not the full story, as the most recent national publication makes clear (released in December). These graphs show there has been a recent upwards blip in the overall downward trend, especially in NSW, SA and Tasmania.

Note the recent blip in the overall downward trend
Note the recent blip in the overall downward trend
Trends across the states
Trends across the states

So I’m a little bit wiser but not much.

Can anyone help answer the original questions: what are some evidence-based suggestions for improving road safety and reducing the toll? And are these being adequately and effectively implemented across the various jurisdictions?

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.