This chapter examines road quality and considers measures to evaluate and improve Australia's road network, including opportunities to integrate Safe System principles into infrastructure investment. The experiences and needs of vulnerable road users are also discussed, in particular, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
Concerns about road quality featured heavily in evidence before the committee. Submitters highlighted the varied quality of Australia's road network and, in particular, the risks associated with travelling on lower quality roads in regional and remote areas.
It is noted that the National Road Safety Action Plan 2018-2020 aims to achieve 3‑star AusRAP ratings or better for 80 per cent of travel on state roads, including a minimum of 90 per cent of travel on national highways.
However, the National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) Inquiry Report quoted statistics which demonstrated that 7 per cent of travel is on 1-star roads and 28 per cent on 2-star roads for vehicle occupants.
According to the NSW Government, the proportion of NSW state roads with an AusRAP safety rating of 3 stars and above is 70 per cent in metropolitan areas and 42 per cent in regional areas.
The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) submitted to the inquiry that a key challenge in addressing road quality "is the widening gap in safety performance between rural/remote and urban road networks, and between national/state and local road networks".
In its submission, the NSW Government informed the committee that:
Local roads also have a more diverse range of road environments than State roads, from high-speed rural roads to local streets with residential, shopping and school functions. They often have a greater mix of road users, particularly pedestrians and cyclists.
WALGA quoted statistics which show that local roads have a higher percentage of fatalities and injuries compared to state roads. The committee heard that the risk of drivers being involved in a casualty crash can be between 1.5 and 2 times higher on the local road network than on the state road networks.
The committee heard that the varied quality of Australia’s regional road network contributes to a comparatively higher number of crashes and fatalities. For example, Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) cited evidence that, despite making up only 16.5 per cent of the nation's population, regional and remote areas account for 65 per cent of road deaths.
The Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) informed the committee that "while many people travel through regional areas, evidence shows it is largely locals who are dying on regional roads". It also highlighted that crashes resulting in hospitalisation are more likely to occur in metropolitan areas, because higher speeds (involved in regional areas) mean a crash is more likely to result in a fatality instead of an injury.
NatRoad directed the committee to a related finding of Infrastructure Australia that, relative to population size, the number of fatalities in regional areas between 2008 and 2016 was over four times than that of major cities.
Dr John Crozier also reflected on the cost of road trauma – which is estimated to cost the economy approximately $30 billion per year. In response to a question regarding whether the cost (or impact per person) is higher in rural and regional areas (as opposed to those in metropolitan areas), Dr Crozier confirmed that approximately two-thirds of deaths are on rural and regional roads. Dr Crozier also noted:
There is an acknowledgement this is a 900,000 kilometre roadway system in Australia. Disproportionately more of those deaths are single-vehicle runoffs on rural and regional roads. The metropolitan component of the crash is more likely to deliver a survivor but a seriously injured survivor.
Dr Crozier told the committee that in relation to specific costs:
What I can say is that a brain-injured patient is several million dollars; it's a payment beyond $4 million for a seriously brain-injured person alone. And somebody who has got a spinal cord injury, quadriplegic or paralysed, it is a $4 million whole-of-life or disability adjusted cost for those. But those two elements of the survivors and the serious injury are the biggest component, the biggest single element of the matrix of injured in the $30 billion spend.
The characteristics and causes of, and risks associated with, crashes on regional and remote roads were raised consistently in submissions.
The Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS) suggested that rural road use and associated crashes have a number of common characteristics including:
generally higher travel speeds and consequently a greater risk of resulting fatality or serious injury in the event of a crash;
longer travelling distances;
a more varied road environment, including a higher proportion of unsealed, dirt roads;
a more varied vehicle population, with more heavy, agricultural and mining vehicles; and
a higher representation of single vehicle crashes, particularly run-off road crashes.
The ACRS summarised the view put by a number of submitters to the inquiry by noting that:
Rural drivers generally operate in areas with higher speed limits, travel on roads potentially with a lower level of roadside maintenance in terms of general road condition, location of roadside obstacles such as trees etc. and the potential for animal strikes.
The NSW Government argued that some of the factors consistently associated with regional and remote crashes mean that a more tailored approach to road safety is required. It was noted, for example, that those who live in rural and regional areas have limited access to public transport, and are frequently required to travel longer distances. It is these types of issues that necessitate more 'regionally focussed' road safety strategies.
The committee heard evidence from ANCAP and RACV which indicated that "high-speed, single vehicle, run-off road crashes remain the most common fatality crash type in these areas".
Similarly, the Australasian Trauma Society (ATS) submitted that due to the greater risk of serious injury and death in rural areas, "these regions warrant even greater attention than is due to urban areas". It proposed that a number of measures to address the disproportionate impact of road trauma in regional areas, including:
improved access to safer car designs;
separation of vulnerable road users from traffic; and
encouraging the use of public transport and building more effective public transport systems.
Asked to account for the reasons for these risks, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) told the committee that:
They involve things such as less access to the safest vehicles, the characteristics of roads and travel patterns in non-urban areas, and a number of other factors that we really don't understand. While efforts to improve the take-up of modern technology to improve safety in crashes is one avenue—for example, vehicle safety standards—improved road infrastructure is also needed in some areas and research is required to understand the remaining factors we currently don't know how to address so that we can develop effective solutions and implement them nationally.
Many other submitters agreed that there is a need to improve technology uptake, with a specific focus on regional drivers. In particular, ANCAP argued that the accelerated uptake of collision avoidance technology, such as speed assist systems, autonomous emergency braking and lane support systems, would reduce rural and regional road crashes.
Improving road quality
There was compelling evidence before the committee to indicate that upgrading infrastructure offers significant improvements for road safety. Submissions referred to a number of road improvement options, ranging from low cost road markings to higher cost intersection upgrades and full highway duplication.
The NRSS Inquiry reported that much of the road safety benefit in the past decade has been associated with improvements to the national and state-managed major road system together with metropolitan centres.
The Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (RACWA) advised that "effective low-cost safety treatments such as sealing shoulders, installing audible edgelines, medians and/or centre-lines are critical to reduce regional road trauma on a larger scale".
The relationship between speed limits and road infrastructure was highlighted in the NRSS Inquiry Report:
An audit of the road system is not required to realise that many speed limits currently across the Australian road network are not conducive to eliminating harm. Many local streets—which are often used by pedestrians and cyclists—have speed limits of 50km an hour, a limit well in excess of the biomechanical tolerances of pedestrians and cyclists of around 30km an hour. Similarly, a regional back road with no shoulders, narrow profile, and no line markings, and a high-volume, multi-lane highway with protective barriers share the same 100km an hour limit. These anomalies need to be rectified and speeds better aligned with the road infrastructure.
In its submission, ANCAP highlighted that some of the automated vehicle technologies already in service rely on infrastructure for their effective function. For example, "lane support systems need to be able to 'read' the lane marking to assist with keeping the vehicle within the intended lane".
NatRoad submitted that "appropriate road infrastructure, including suitable rest areas for heavy vehicles, is a critical component of enhancing heavy vehicle safety outcomes".
The Australian Motorcycle Council warned the committee that general treatments designed for other road users may not have the same effectiveness for motorcyclists. For example, "motorcycles generally only have two wheels, and unlike cars are much more likely to be adversely affected by road conditions".
The committee heard that although motorcycles make up only approximately 5 per cent of the Australian traffic fleet, they represent approximately 20 per cent of all road fatalities. The Australian Motorcycle Council proposed a number of 'simple and relatively inexpensive' measures to improve motorcycle safety, including:
sealing edges and shoulders, particularly on curves;
installing centre and edge line markings on all roads; and
improving sight lines through obstruction removal and intersection design.
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (Department of Infrastructure) submitted that the Australian Government evaluates the benefits achieved from road safety measures in infrastructure projects. However, submitters such as Streets Alive Yarra expressed concern that the "existing programs, mechanisms and policy measures are ineffective".
In evidence, the Department of Infrastructure advised that:
Whilst it's very encouraging and positive to have the federal partnership agreement anchored in the reference to considering safe systems as part of that funding arrangement, I think the next step is actually specifying a standard for safety treatments when we're investing in the road network.
The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) informed the committee that "at present, there is no reliable way to compare the effects of safety initiatives from jurisdiction to jurisdiction". According to the ARRB, there would be value in investigating the effectiveness of different treatments.
The ARRB also submitted that the treatments which result in reduced fatal and serious crashes do not differ depending on where you are.
The RACV, on the other hand, proposed a number of treatments specific to either regional and remote or metropolitan areas. It submitted:
In country areas, if a driver leaves their lane because of a moment of inattention, rumble strips can alert them, sealed shoulders provide space to recover, and barriers prevent them from hitting a tree, pole, or another vehicle.
Further treatments specific to metropolitan areas were described by the RACV as including "traffic calming measures including roundabouts, speed humps and chicanes, better infrastructure to keep bicycle riders safe, and better management of intersections".
Infrastructure investment and safety
Road safety can be improved through infrastructure investment in a number of ways. For example, by either improving the infrastructure design (eg. low-cost treatments such as line-marking, signage and roadside hazard removal, or higher cost treatments such as barriers, footpaths and intersection upgrades) or through a reduction in the operating speed (eg. lower urban speed limits, point to point speed cameras and vehicle technologies).
The committee heard that substantial road safety benefits will be achieved when road safety outcomes are integrated into the planning and design of all new major transport projects. The NSW Government argued that "this requires mandating of core road safety requirements for road design and network corridor planning".
In evidence, WALGA raised the issue of targeted funding for road safety strategies and projects and the way in which it's used in rural, regional and remote areas. WALGA noted that funding is frequently used to maintain current assets rather than improve road safety outcomes. The committee was told that:
…the financial reality, particularly for rural and regional local governments, is that the vast majority of the funding that they have available for roads in general – and most of the funding is applied to roads – is really still trying to play catch-up in terms of maintaining the asset. So we see those funds very much being prioritised for resheeting and resealing type activity, which, in the current environment, doesn’t necessarily produce a better safety outcome. I guess one of the things that we are working with our members to do is to try to look for opportunities: where that funding is being used for what is essentially renewal or maintenance activities, are there incremental ways of improving the safety of that road as part of that project?
The committee received evidence which suggested that investment in infrastructure, with a view to improving road safety, could have far-reaching benefits for both public health and economic growth. President of Safer Australian Roads and Highways, Mr Peter Frazer, argued that:
An unimproved road which has had a number of serious injuries and fatalities is a burden on the health system, whether it's part of funding by the Commonwealth, the state or territory. What we need to do is say: if we do this improvement, we're actually saving money for the economy, not just infrastructure. So we need to look at the benefit-cost ratios associated with improvements in these areas, but we also need to talk globally and we need to have each of the ministries affected involved in this discussion. As I said, one of the big by-products is health—serious injury is actually going to affect the health budget, not the infrastructure budget, so we need to look at this holistically.
Infrastructure funding linked to safety performance
In accordance with its terms of reference, the committee considered measures to ensure state and territory, and local government road infrastructure investment incorporates the Safe System principles.
Submitters identified a number of opportunities to embed road safety targets into infrastructure funding at the federal and state level, such as safety performance criteria. In addition, submitters and witnesses described the potential for mandated AusRAP Safety Ratings to reduce road trauma in Australia.
In evidence, Dr John Crozier proposed that road safety ought to be given greater consideration when allocating funding through Infrastructure Australia:
There is business modelling that Infrastructure Australia uses as it attributes and allocates funding. Safety is an element of those algorithms but there is some opportunity to further refine and increase the value of that element in the algorithms that are used for the disbursement of the funding.
The NRSS Inquiry identified the need for better targeting of infrastructure safety funding to address the major crash types on Australian road networks, including the growing problem of crashes involving vulnerable road users. The inquiry reported that Infrastructure Australia does not promote or encourage infrastructure projects that primarily deliver road safety improvements and reductions in road trauma.
In its submission, the ACRS asserted that performance measures are the primary way to drive safe road infrastructure across state, territory and local networks. The ACRS also noted that safety star ratings for vehicles—delivered through ANCAP—have been successful, and a similar approach could be delivered onto Australian roads. The key recommendation was that the Australian Government support the development of a road safety star rating, and mandate its usage for any Commonwealth investment in road network infrastructure.
Mr Michael Bradley noted the support of the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) for infrastructure investment to be tied to safety outcomes: "we would like to see those billions of taxpayer dollars tied to safety outcomes in state and territory jurisdictions".
The AAA submitted that use of a road rating system, such as iRAP, not only incentivises the improvement of rate safety, but also provides flexibility to state, territory and local governments to tailor solutions to the local context.
Expanding on this, Mr Bradley told the committee:
You can do that without having to be prescriptive about what technology has to be rolled out in any given circumstance, because you're not going to have a one-size-fits-all solution given the diversity of Australia's landscapes and the different road safety challenges being addressed in any given situation.
The NSW Government outlined a number of practical safety treatments presently funded across the state and targeted towards the specific types of crashes that are occurring on the network, including safety barriers, audio tactile line marking, shoulder improvements and motorcycle underrun. It summed up the return on investment, saying the cost-benefit ratio of this investment "delivers a benefit of around $5 for every dollar invested".
Star ratings for roads
The NRSS Inquiry Report proposed that all Commonwealth infrastructure funding should include star rating and safety performance criteria, and that Safe System Assessments should be used at the planning and completion stages of all projects.
Throughout the inquiry, the committee received a large volume of evidence relating to star ratings for roads in relation to safety. The idea that infrastructure investment could be linked to a star rating system was a common element in many submissions, such as that received from Streets Alive Yarra, the RACV and the NSW Government.
In evidence, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) described the increasing push to approach roads – and guidance for roads – in terms of road safety through a star system: a two-star, three-star, four-star system. It was noted that there have been discussions at a Ministerial Council level about the need for every road manager to undertake a network-wide analysis of road safety. The committee was told that each road manager will:
…need to understand, on their own road networks, the level of road safety – what would be an applicable star level – and what needs to be done to raise the standard of safety across the network. For most councils, that's an extraordinary challenge; they have a large number of roads and very few resources. It's a struggle for state governments, which have enormous networks, to undertake that work.
ALGA also noted, however, that under the Queensland Government's regional model, an amount of funding is set aside, with part of that reserved funding used to finance pilot schemes, "where groups of councils have undertaken an analysis of their own roads, with the idea of working out what is an appropriate level of safety on those roads, what the current level is and what can be done to improve that standard". ALGA submitted that the Queensland Government's approach, which is driven by regional structures, makes a solid contribution to improving road safety.
The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) proposed that all road infrastructure funding should be linked to a demonstrable increase in road safety. The ARRB expressed support for the use of a road rating system – particularly if the system was able to achieve improved road safety.
The committee heard that Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) was developed by the RACV and the AAA as a simple measure of how safe a road is. AusRAP assigns a star rating from 1-star (least safe) to 5 stars (safest) by assessing the safety features built-in to the road. This process involves an inspection of several design elements such as lane and shoulder width, curvature of the road and the presence of safety barriers.
The committee heard that star ratings are particularly useful in order to quantify the level of risk associated with road design. The AusRAP analysis contained in the AAA’s Star Rating Australia’s National Network Of Highways indicated that safe roads with design elements such as dual lane divided carriageways, good line markings and wide lanes have a higher star rating, while lower-rated roads are likely to have single-lanes and be undivided with poor line marking and hazards such as trees, poles and steep embankments close to the edge of the road.
The NSW Government advised that it had been using International Road Assessment Programme (i-RAP) ratings across the NSW state road network. The committee heard that, at present, 80 per cent of the NSW state road network is three stars and below. The committee was also told that the NSW Government has commenced a pilot program which will support three local government areas to do the same in their local jurisdiction.
The RACV estimated that there are over 180 000 kilometres of regional roads with 100km/h speed limits in Victoria. The group reported that, at the current level of funding, upgrading these roads to a minimum 3-star safety standard would likely take around 1 000 years. Further, the RACWA argued that "there is no transparency over how this is being measured or whether this is being achieved".
At the same time, however, the RACV reiterated its support for a minimum 3‑star standard of safety on existing major highways, and proposed that newly constructed sections of highway be required to meet a safety rating of no less than 4-stars.
The committee was advised that, at present, there is no central depository for star-rated data on road infrastructure, and data collected remains the property of states and relevant agencies. Stakeholder group i-RAP expressed support for the establishment of an AusRAP hub as part of the Office of Road Safety (ORS) to "coordinate national partnerships, data, innovations, communications and reporting".
Advocating for the publication of star rating and risk-mapping data to guide investment and inform navigation decisions (in line with international examples), i-RAP CEO, Mr Rob McInerney told the committee:
We'd like to see proactive star ratings and investment plans on the national and state highway networks, systemically, every three to five years, that feed into the Infrastructure Australia audits but that also feed the investment pipeline of government, just as is happening in Mexico and is now mandated across the European Union.
Key performance indicators
In evidence, the Australasian Trauma Society (ATS) suggested that federal funding should be linked to road safety outcomes, using key performance indicators. It was argued that "if there were funding attached to the achievement of the KPIs, there would be a lot more chance of successful achievement of some of the things we need to get the safe system up and working". ATS also submitted that linking infrastructure investment to key performance is "the only way we're going to achieve the end aim of decreasing deaths and serious injuries towards zero".
When asked for the ATS' view on what the KPIs should include, Professor Anthony Joseph told the committee that:
KPIs should be linked to the Safe System approach;
KPIs should be linked to companies (or states and territories) having their fleet cars fitted with the latest injury reduction technology;
KPIs should be linked to all states and territories having all their roads rated at three stars or greater – particularly the higher-volume roads;
evidence that appropriate licensing processes are in place should be required – particularly for vulnerable drivers; and
it may also be appropriate to link KPIs with decreases in maximum speed limits.
The NRSS Inquiry found that more than a third of all road deaths and severe injuries could be saved if the NRSS Action Plan 2018-2020 achieved the target for 90 per cent of travel on national highways to be on 3-star or better roads, and 80 per cent of travel on state roads to be on 3-star or better roads.
Road funding and management responsibilities
The issues around road quality, road funding and jurisdictional responsibility were raised by stakeholders – particularly in relation to how funding is allocated across all levels of government.
State and territory governments are largely responsible for funding, planning, designing and operating the road network, managing vehicle registration and driver licensing systems, and regulating and enforcing road user behaviour.
Local governments have traditionally taken responsibility for funding, planning, designing and operating the road networks in their local areas. In addition to council revenues, local governments rely on grants and federal and state funding to maintain and improve the road network.
The role of the Federal Government – in terms of infrastructure investment – was raised by a number of stakeholders, including the NSW Government, which argued that there are two specific areas in which the Commonwealth could make a significant difference: road safety infrastructure and vehicle safety. It was submitted that:
The Commonwealth can ensure that funding for new roads and major road improvements is contingent on delivery of specific safe-distance infrastructure treatments such as median and roadside barriers.
The Department of Infrastructure advised that, in terms of expenditure on roads, the Commonwealth currently provides funding across a number of programs, including:
the Bridges Renewal Program; and
the Heavy Vehicle Safety Productivity Program.
ALGA pointed to the challenges faced by local government – particularly in relation to road funding – and emphasised the fact that although local government is responsible for managing approximately 75 per cent of Australia's roads (by length), they "do that with about 3.4 per cent of Australia's tax revenue".
ALGA noted the Transport and Infrastructure Council's (TIC) strong focus on road safety, and argued that this reflects the fact that road safety is a national issue. ALGA also noted that local councils vary greatly in terms of capacity, and stressed that the assistance local government receives from state and territory governments (and from the Commonwealth) is essential to improve road safety outcomes.
A number of stakeholders suggested that local government could be utilised more effectively to incorporate Safe System principles into investment in road infrastructure.
WALGA asserted that in "reality large parts of the aging network do not yet meet the current minimum standards". It was also noted that the effort and investment required to achieve Safe System standard roads is likely to be a substantial under-estimate.
WALGA submitted that underlying the ambition to incorporate Safe System principles, is the assumption that transforming the road network is simply a matter of upgrading roads from the current minimum standards to Safe System quality. It was argued, however, that the "effort and investment required to achieve this is largely unknown".
The committee was advised that addressing this knowledge gap, will require a review and assessment of road networks across Australia to support the development of a sound evidence base for investment in road infrastructure.
One solution proposed by WALGA involves increased and sustained funding to local government which would enable assessment and application of a star rating to local road networks.
Similarly, the ARRB submitted that targeted infrastructure investment would be far more effective if informed by a local government understanding of road safety issues in local communities. It was proposed that:
Councils must be able to easily determine how and where to invest what funding they have. This will require ranking of sites with high crash risk based on reactive (blackspot) analysis coupled with predictive techniques like iRAP and corridor stereotype assessments along with mass action treatment solutions.
ALGA submitted that, in addition to road safety infrastructure investment, there are other things that can be done, including: "looking at the way individual roads interact with other roads, looking at the speed limit on those roads, looking at other things that can control driving". Further, ALGA told the committee that:
If we have a balanced approach to investment as well as control, enforcement, speed limits we can raise the level of safety for roads up to that three star level. It's a great contribution and the Commonwealth, of course, has for such a long time been the main supporter of Austroads in financial terms and a major contributor. It's probably through that mechanism that the Commonwealth has been most effective in providing capacity contribution to a local government, not just funding.
Stakeholders noted that relevant to the assessment of the safety of roads and the application of a star rating is local government’s capacity, combined with limited funding and resources spread across varying priorities. The ARRB, for example, advised that:
There is no requirement for local government to [apply the Austroads methodology] at the moment, which I think is a gap in our understanding of where risk exists across the nation. Having said that, it requires an investment in skills and it requires an investment in funding for that analysis to be undertaken… The mechanisms are there but there is still the need to invest in that skill and to support local government to apply it to their road network. That would be the limitation there—not necessarily their capability but their ability through funding.
The committee also heard that both the NSW and Queensland Governments work with local government through consultation and various funding mechanisms to achieve road safety outcomes.
The Department of Transport and Main Roads Queensland (TMR), for example, outlined the model used by the Queensland Government:
We have a road and transport alliance here in Queensland with local government with a number of regional road and transport groups with clusters of councils that work with our regions. They have various funding sources. They look at the network and look at what's the most important and highest order investment across the middle tier roads that are shared within the road hierarchy.
In response to a question about local government capacity, TMR advised that a capability program within the alliance "is specifically designed to assist in supplementing the resources that councils have at their disposal".
Evidence to the inquiry suggested that further work may be required to better coordinate efforts across jurisdictions. Mr Rob McInerney, i-RAP's Chief Executive Officer, observed that one of the key challenges to the effectiveness of road safety initiatives is a lack of coordination.
Improvements for vulnerable road users
Stakeholders pointed to the fact that vulnerable road users – such as cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians are affected by road trauma, and argued that road safety strategies should address the needs of all road users.
Transurban pointed to what it described as a 'specific vulnerability' in Australia's transport network, and argued that it is pedestrians, cyclists, the aged, young drivers, regional communities and those with a range of social mental and health conditions that the transport system should be designed and operated to protect.
Some stakeholders also questioned whether the Safe System approach outlined in the NRSS actually meets the needs of all road users. Specifically, the Motorcycle Council of New South Wales expressed concern that the strategy fails to engage with the specific needs of vulnerable users such as motorcycle riders.
The need to better protect vulnerable road users from death and serious injury was raised by stakeholders. The committee received evidence on the issue of survivable interaction speeds, as well as a number of proposals regarding reduced speed limits.
The committee was advised that even if struck at the default urban speed limit, cyclists and motorcyclists are likely to be seriously injured or killed. The RACV told the committee, for example, that in 2018, 38 per cent of fatalities and 47 per cent of hospitalisations were vulnerable road users (motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians).
The Amy Gillett Foundation, also argued that speed plays a key role in the outcome of crashes involving vulnerable road users. The Foundation noted that data shows the risk to pedestrians for injury increases from as low as 20km/h with the likelihood of death increasing exponentially at speeds above 40km/h.
The correlation between speed and survivability was noted in the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, as the following figure – 'survivable impact speeds for different crash scenarios' – shows.
Figure: Survivable impact speeds for different crash scenarios
Source: Australian Transport Council, National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, May 2011, p. 60.
The committee received evidence from a number of stakeholder groups which argued that a reduction of certain speed limits has significant potential to reduce death and injury – particularly of vulnerable road users. The issue of speed management is considered further in Chapter 6.
Road sharing initiatives
A number of submitters expressed support for safe road sharing initiatives, noting that proposals for safer and more intuitive road sharing will generally benefit the interests of both cyclists and pedestrians.
A particular focus was on road sharing initiatives that either:
separate the different road user groups using designated spaces; or
where road user groups share space, foster awareness and an inclusive, respectful attitude between the groups.
Stakeholders also suggested that, in many parts of Australia, a lack of alternative transport options compounds the problems associated with improving road safety. Several organisations called for increased investment in public transport and safe road sharing initiatives.
Victoria Walks, for example, argued that a road safety strategy framed around a model shift would improve safety for the most vulnerable users and "could be the 'game changer' that allows us to make substantive progress in reducing road trauma".
A number of submissions conveyed specific concerns about pedestrians as vulnerable road users. The Amy Gillett Foundation, for example, informed the committee that over the past two decades pedestrians have made up between 13 and 14 per cent of road fatalities. Victoria Walks attributed these statistics to the fact that pedestrians are not protected in the same way vehicle occupants are and, as such, are four times more likely to be injured than other road users as a result of a crash.
The committee also heard that older people are over-involved in pedestrian crashes. They are also more likely to be severely injured or killed than younger pedestrians. Victoria Walks explained that, while pedestrian deaths have decreased over the past decade (at a rate of 0.5 per cent per annum), the number and proportion of older pedestrians killed, has steadily increased.
A range of proposals were put forward with a view to increasing the safety of pedestrians as road users. These included: dedicating a portion of transport funding to pedestrian safety projects, requiring greater focus on the safety of vulnerable road users in vehicle safety standards, and adopting a target for an ongoing annual reduction in both pedestrian fatalities and pedestrian hospitalisations.
The Pedestrian Council of Australia (PCA) outlined a number of measures which, it suggested, could be brought to Australia with very little cost and result in a significant reduction in trauma. These included:
speed limit reductions in areas of high pedestrian activity;
alternative traffic light setups, such as traffic scrambles and countdown timers; and
pedestrian crossings at roundabouts.
Advocates for vulnerable road users, including cyclists, called for more holistic infrastructure spending, which takes into account the needs of all road users. The committee was told that there has been an increase in the number of pedestrians and cyclists using the road network. At the same time, however, i‑RAP noted that "only 25 per cent of our roads are three-star or better for cyclists at the moment".
Submitters, including Streets Alive Yarra and Transurban, expressed the view that sustained long-term funding should be provided to local and state government for road infrastructure that aligns with the Safe System approach, including fully separated and protected bicycle lanes. Victoria Walks also advocated for distinct funding streams for both walking and cycling infrastructure.
The Amy Gillett Foundation emphasised the need for accurate and timely crash data, and argued that "cyclist crashes are significantly under-reported and currently neither police nor hospital reported crashes provide a clear picture of the number of people involved in crashes on their bikes".
The committee was advised that although motorcycles only make up around 5 per cent of the Australian traffic fleet, they represent approximately 20 per cent of all road fatalities. It was also noted that a significant number of more serious injuries are due to motorcycle crashes.
The Motorcycle Council of NSW argued that "the rate of improvement in motorcycle safety lags behind that of other road users as a result of motorcycle specific counter-measures not being included in road safety programs".
The Victorian Motorcycle Council highlighted the fact that car-centric approaches to improving road safety, often focus on mitigating the consequences of a crash. It was argued, however, that this approach "cannot apply to a motorcycle as a result of the rider being an exposed vulnerable road user". Further, it was submitted that:
Any strategy that hopes to win significant and lasting reductions in motorcycle fatality numbers has to fundamentally work to reduce the probability of a rider crashing.
Calls for increased motorcycle awareness were complicated by the view that peak motorcycle organisations do not have sufficient level of input into road safety strategies. The committee heard that motorcycle safety is currently treated as an afterthought and that there is "a void in the advisory and consultation process between motorcycle riders and the road safety departments within Government".
This issue was also addressed in evidence:
I know that the federal Office of Road Safety is preparing the next road safety strategy, but, even though the Motorcycle Council is the peak body for riders, it's not been consulted regarding that development. So, at that federal level, we don't currently have a contact point. At the state level, most of the state rider organisations would have a contact point with road safety or with their authorities.
With a view to increasing the level of consultation between the Government and motorcycle users, the Australian Motorcycle Council and the Motorcycle Council of NSW called for a national representative body to provide a forum for consultation. A body such as the former Motorcycle Safety Consultative Committee was suggested.
Road infrastructure was one of the key issues raised by stakeholders throughout the inquiry. A significant number of stakeholder groups pointed to infrastructure as having a major impact on road safety, and stressed that improvements to road safety will require all jurisdictions to ensure that road infrastructure is fit for purpose.
Specifically, the committee agrees with those stakeholder groups which argued that more could be done to guarantee that state, territory and local government road infrastructure investment incorporates Safe System principles. To this end, a key future task should be an assessment of the current condition and rate of change of Australian roads, particularly for local roads.
The committee recommends the Australian Government ensure all Commonwealth funded road projects incorporate Network Design for Road Safety principles.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government work with state, territory and local governments to collect accurate data on the current condition and rate of change of Australian roads.
The committee recommends that Australian Government identify priority roads for dedicated and targeted road funding partnerships with the relevant jurisdictions to improve the star rating performance of road infrastructure for all road users.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government support and fund research into the effectiveness of varying road treatments in a wide range of circumstances, with a view to improving the road safety outcomes of infrastructure investment.
The committee notes that the impact of road trauma, both economically and socially, is well established. In the absence of alternatives, road networks will continue to play a vital role connecting communities and facilitating commerce through the efficient transportation of goods and access to services, particularly in Australia’s regions.
Evidence to the inquiry made clear the over-representation of road deaths in regional and rural areas. The committee considers it important that measures to improve road safety outcomes recognise the unique challenges and the disproportionate representation of regional communities in road trauma statistics.
The committee acknowledges the concerns raised by motorcycle representative bodies, which submitted that they had not been adequately consulted in relation to the development of road safety strategies. The committee is of the view that the Australian Government should consult widely on the next NRSS (for the decade 2021-2030). Consultation should be undertaken in relation to the full range of matters relating to vulnerable road users, including the specific needs of motorcycle riders.
The committee considers it important that measures to improve safety outcomes for motorcycle riders recognise the unique characteristics of motorcycles. To this end, the committee supports the ORS to maintain on-going connection and consultation with the peak motorcycle bodies to ensure there is a focus on matters of particular importance to motorcycle safety.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government establish a national consultative committee on motorcycle safety.
The committee acknowledges the ongoing community advocacy for improvements to infrastructure – specifically the infrastructure used by vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. The committee notes the Australian Government’s promotion of road sharing through the $100 billion investment pipeline, and participation in the Cycling and Walking Australia and New Zealand group. The committee encourages ongoing consideration of appropriate investments that support the improvement of safety for vulnerable road users.