2011-2020 National Road Safety Strategy Inquiry
As noted in Chapter 1, the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 (2011‑2020 NRSS) which is due to expire at the end of 2020, was the subject of a recent review (the NRSS Inquiry), co‑chaired by Dr Crozier and Professor Woolley. The results of the review were provided to the Australian Government in September 2018.
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (the Department) cited the NRSS Inquiry Report, which acknowledged that the NRSS (and the supporting Action Plan for 2018-2020) do prioritise effective approaches and that "many safety solutions are known and some are in place to some degree, while others sit on the shelf, often due to a lack of capacity and resources". The Department also noted that a key finding of the review was that "a lack of accountability, oversight and national leadership contributed to poor implementation and ineffective road safety action".
In evidence provided to the committee, key stakeholders also drew heavily on the issues raised during the Inquiry into the 2011-2020 NRSS, its findings and its recommendations. Submitters expressed support for the inquiry, which focused on the need for dramatic changes to road safety management and the recommendations, which were aimed toward addressing road trauma in Australia and transforming Australia's road safety performance.
The Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS), for example, noted that it had endorsed the NRSS Inquiry Report when it was published in 2018, and argued that for the extremely limited resourcing that was made available, the Inquiry Report "delivered a remarkably cohesive and compelling, necessarily high-level, analysis of the national state of road safety in Australia".
Many of the stakeholders who provided evidence to the committee's inquiry had also provided submissions to the NRSS Inquiry. They are, therefore, invested in the development of the new NRSS, which will dictate road safety policy for the coming decade.
The new NRSS is seen by many as an important opportunity to build on the positive national and international outcomes in relation to speed management, rural and regional road safety, intelligent transport systems, smart motorways as well as connected and automated vehicle fleets.
Implementation of findings
Stakeholders stressed the importance of taking the findings of the NRSS Inquiry into account, and using them as the basis of the new NRSS. Stakeholders argued for the inclusion of measures to ensure strong leadership, clear and appropriate performance measures and targets, a clear implementation strategy, accountability mechanisms and measurable targets.
In its submission, the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP), outlined the organisation's views regarding the strategies, performance measures and targets which should be included in the next NRSS. It was submitted that, first and foremost, the new strategy must implement – in full – the 12 recommendations (and associated actions) outlined in the review. It was also argued that the new strategy should also take into account the many submissions that have been provided, and the consultations that have taken place, over recent years.
It was noted that the core elements – Road Safety Management, Safe Speeds, Safe Roads, Safe Vehicles, Safe Road Users and Improved Post Crash Care – are globally accepted. It was argued that aligning with this proven structure is essential, particularly as it would also align with state-level strategies, and provide opportunities to employ global best practice.
The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) also noted its support for the NRSS Inquiry, describing both the NRSS Inquiry and the subsequent Governance Review as "comprehensive bodies of work, which forensically addressed where existing road safety strategies have failed and identified opportunities for improvement".
The AAA indicated that it supports the recommendations of the NRSS Inquiry. However, the Association expressed disappointment with the Government's response to both the Inquiry's recommendations and the findings of the recent Governance Review. The AAA noted that in November 2019, the Transport Infrastructure Council (TIC) had reported that the 12 recommendations were either 'agreed' or 'agreed in principle'. It was submitted, however, that in the absence of substantiating detail, or explanation from the Government, the AAA could not agree with the characterisation of many of these recommendations as having been 'accepted'.
The AAA indicated that it was also waiting to see how the Commonwealth intends to address to the findings of the Governance Review—which it noted were provided to the Australian Government in June 2019. The AAA observed that many of the Governance Review's findings related directly to this inquiry's terms of reference—covering topics such as road infrastructure funding, road safety data, integration of Safe System principles, coordination and influence within Government and performance objectives.
Office of Road Safety
It has been agreed by the Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) that the Office of Road Safety (ORS) will be the lead agency in relation to the next NRSS. The committee was told that the ORS has been working with state and territory and local governments to identify the key directions for the strategy for the next ten years. The ORS is also working on an Action Plan which will specifically guide the first years of the new strategy.
The ORS has been working with a large range of stakeholders and advised that, to date, it has invited more than 50 stakeholders to contribute to the new NRSS. In evidence, Assistant Secretary, Ms O'Neill told the committee that:
We've gone broader than has previously been done to make sure that we're including health, education and Indigenous bodies and people involved in injury prevention as well as those that can support a cultural change across the country to lift the profile of road safety.
The NRSS Inquiry Report pointed to fact that most of the commitments outlined in the 2011-2020 Strategy had not been met. The ORS has been charged with analysing the reasons behind this ensuring that the 'implementation failure' does not continue.
In addition to taking on board the conclusions and recommendations contained in the NRSS Inquiry Report, the ORS has undertaken its own consultation process. Representatives from ORS told the committee:
One of the key messages that we heard is that what we were trying to achieve, or what governments were looking to achieve, as probably a mile wide and about an inch deep. The report said that what you need to do is look at the areas that you need to prioritise and focus on. You really need to put your time and effort into those. It said that you probably need about a dozen priority areas.
Based on the recommendation that the ORS focus on identifying a few discrete priorities and investigating them thoroughly, it has identified 11 key priorities on which it has been consulting. These are:
planning and investment (and related mechanisms);
improved post-crash care; and
workplace related road trauma.
The Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (RACWA) acknowledged that the ORS would take the lead role in developing the new NRSS. It was argued, however, that ORS should develop the new NRSS in consultation with "a bipartisan Parliamentary Reference Group or the proposed Standing Committee (with all sides of government and representative agencies being signatories to the Strategy)" and involvement of the states and territories.
The AAA expressed concern that, to date, there had been very little transparency around the development of the new NRSS. Further, it was submitted that the Commonwealth and state and territory governments had so far been developing the new NRSS "away from public view and away from input from organisations with a dedicated interest in road safety – including motoring, health, emergency and infrastructure bodies". The AAA argued, therefore, that has been difficult for stakeholder groups to contribute to conversations about appropriate targets or performance measures. Further, it was suggested that if:
… industry and stakeholders are to contribute in a meaningful way to furthering road safety in Australia, they need to be engaged in the development of the next Strategy from an early stage.
Stakeholders stressed the importance of having clear guidelines in relation to which sectors should take responsibility for specific actions and which sector should take on the leadership for specific functions. It was suggested by iRAP, for example, that the Federal Government should take the lead on:
owning the NRSS and accountabilities;
owning KPI reporting through national road safety observatory functions and harmonised data reporting and incentivising data collection and reporting from other relevant stakeholders;
supporting safe system national coordination through ANCAP, AusRAP, National Road Rules and Trauma Registry hubs/functions;
leading on vehicle standards and vehicle import requirements and the accelerated uptake of new technologies;
providing enabling funds (Recommendation 3 – the $3 billion a year road safety fund) for National Highway 5-star investments and for local government to bring roads to 3-star or better standards. This can be targeted using the annual Risk Maps and Star Rating benchmarks every three to five years as mandated in Europe; and
supporting initiatives for research, capacity development/efficiency delivery mechanisms for local government in particular, innovation and key enablers.
Stakeholders such as iRAP stressed that within the road safety management action area, it is essential that the new strategy is very clear on accountabilities. It was noted that as a special advisor to the NRSS Inquiry, iRAP recommended a national governance review, with a view to achieving a clear outline of where the Commonwealth should lead, and "where the established expertise and ownership of actions at a State, local and non-government area are clearly articulated and understood".
It was argued that, importantly, the new NRSS should recognise the state-level leadership and strategies in their areas of clear accountability, rather than try to duplicate or cross-over those issues, adding that:
The well-set, ambitious, optimised and resourced work to achieve the key performance indicators will provide the ultimate coordinating function for national action and accountability.
As noted in Chapter 2, several stakeholder groups made clear recommendations regarding the need for conditions to be placed around the provision of Commonwealth funding. Some stakeholders also raised the possibility of safety star ratings being used as a condition, while others suggested that failure to deliver against agreed NRSS targets should be used as a financial lever – particularly in relation to funding for states and territories.
The importance of setting targets for the next NRRS was stressed by a number of stakeholders.
The AAA argued, for example, that in order for targets to be effective, they need to be underpinned by deliverable actions that will have a measurable impact on reducing road deaths and serious injuries. The AAA also submitted that actions "must have stated timeframes in which they will be achieved, and where actions are deemed completed, an evaluation of their impact needs to be undertaken".
Transurban Limited – an Australian-owned company that builds and operates toll roads in Australia and the United States – argued that the recommendations put forward by the NRSS Inquiry Report are key to developing performance measures and targets for 2021-2030. Specifically, it argued that:
Establishing targets for increased fleet safety in all modes of motorised transport from motorcycles to passenger vehicles, trucks and heavy vehicles will be critical to ensuring that zero can be achieved with the next decades as modelled by road safety and transport academics and our road authorities.
The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) advised that it is managing an Austroads project that will initially identify baseline road trauma trends, to inform the development of targets for the new NRSS. The second element to this project, if it is progressed, will project impacts of countermeasures on the baseline. In addition to representatives from the ORS, the panel guiding the project includes representatives from Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. TMR noted that this work "will support the development of an appropriately aspirational and targeted strategy that will support and value-add to the extensive work already being led by states and territories".
Key Performance Indicators
Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) stressed the importance of a body or an organisation taking day-to-day responsibility for checking the targets and determining whether they are being met. The body would also be responsible for overseeing the strategy and confirming that the strategies that are being used in the programs being rolled out are being done effectively, and are evidence based, so that it is clear they are going to work. In terms of using KPIs as a way of monitoring strategies, NeuRA told the committee that:
KPIs are an important part of it, but one of the things we've learned from the current National Road safety strategy is that simply setting KPIs alone, without an underlying plan of action and targets that look at the rollout of the plan of action and the activities, is ineffective. So simply setting a road toll KPI is not sufficient; it needs to be underpinned with KPIs, if you wish to set them, on the actual activities that need to be done to ensure that.
Stakeholders submitted that one of the keys to achieving improvement (based on the next NRSS) will be a "determined and gradual effort to achieve all aspects of the Safe System Strategy and maintain the momentum once preliminary success is achieved".
It was also argued that in addition to its leadership role, if the ORS is going to achieve much needed improvement in road safety, it will need to focus on stakeholder engagement. Specifically, stakeholders stressed that in the process of developing a new NRSS, the ORS should also be building productive working relationships with states and territories, industry and other stakeholder groups. Consultation and cooperation across the sector, it was argued, will result in an NRSS that can be widely supported.
TMR noted, for example, that each state and territory government publishes its own road safety strategy and action plans. It was argued that the new NRSS should support state and territory plans by focusing on:
the actions that are supported by evidence as having the most impact on serious trauma reduction; and
those which would benefit from national leadership to achieve the most improvement (through Commonwealth action alone or national harmonisation).
Stakeholder groups stressed the need for the new NRSS to meet the needs of all road users. A number of stakeholders also argued that it is vital that the new strategy contain measures to address specific issues such as speed management and protection for vulnerable road users.
Vulnerable road users
Stakeholders pointed to those who are viewed as particularly vulnerable in Australia's transport network. It was stressed that road safety strategies need to address the specific issues that impact motorcyclists, pedestrians, cyclists, older Australians, younger drivers, regional communities and those with disabilities. Submitters argued that more vulnerable community members and road users also deserve our attention and our protection.
While some stakeholders questioned whether the Safe System approach outlined in the NRSS actually meets the needs of all road users, groups such as the Motorcycle Council of New South Wales and the Pedestrian Council of Australia (PCA) expressed concern that the strategy fails to engage with the specific needs of vulnerable users and pedestrians.
The issues around vulnerable road users are discussed in more detail in Chapter 5.
The importance of making automated enforcement a part of speed management was stressed by a number of submitters, and it was argued that a key focus of the new NRSS should include the deployment of average-speed cameras, mobile phone detection cameras and closed lane enforcement, which already have support from the community.
Having clear statements which support action on speed in the NRSS was seen as a priority for TMR. It was argued that targeted speed reductions – where risk is greatest and road safety benefits may be realised – provides a real opportunity to reduce serious road trauma. Specifically, TMR would like to achieve improvements in 'serious injury' and 'vulnerable road user' crashes in urban areas and all 'serious crashes' in regional and remote areas.
The RACWA noted the NRSS Inquiry recommendation that the next strategy "accelerate the adoption of speed management initiatives that help eliminate harm". It also pointed to a recent Austroads report which argued that there has been call for leadership at the national level around the harmonisation of appropriate speed limits. The RACWA recommended that the next NRSS 'specific and measurable actions to reduce the impact of speed on crash outcomes in our country.
The issues around speed management are discussed in more detail in Chapter 6.
The committee notes the recommendations made in the NRSS Inquiry Report regarding the need for road safety to become a genuine, integrated part of 'business as usual' in all levels of government. In evidence to the committee stakeholders have, overwhelmingly indicated support for these recommendations and stressed the importance of incorporating road safety across government.
The committee notes that in November 2019, the TIC committed to the framework for the next NRSS, and agreed that the aim of the strategy should be to position Australia to achieve the Vision Zero target by 2050. It has also been agreed that the new strategy – which will set national reduction targets for road crash deaths and serious injuries – will be framed around three central themes: Safe Roads, Safe Vehicles and Safe Road Use. The focus for 'Safe Road Use' will be on improving the safety of all road users, including those identified as 'vulnerable' such as cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.
The current focus of the Office for Road Safety on delivering lifesaving road safety treatments through a $2 billion Road Safety program, and the investment in a National Road Safety Data Hub, are significant signs that Australia is undertaking a real step change in improving road safety.
The committee commends all of the work that has gone into the next NRSS by all governments and stakeholders who have contributed the process. The committee urges the Australian government to adopt and implement the recommendations in this report, and the findings of the NRSS Inquiry in the next NRSS.