Vehicle safety

In Australia, consumer awareness programs that encourage consumers to purchase vehicles that meet higher safety levels in some areas are complementary to the regulation of minimum vehicle safety standards.

The Australian Government and the states and territories support the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) as well as the Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR), which both provide vehicle safety ratings aimed at assisting consumers to choose safer vehicles.

Where international standards are yet to be developed, and where there is not a strong case for development or implementation either internationally or through national regulation, non-regulatory programs such as ANCAP can be very effective in improving safety. ANCAP's goal is to encourage manufacturers to exceed mandated levels of safety performance through its star rating system. ANCAP has the ability to promote promising safety technologies based on early evidence about their effectiveness, without being subject to the stricter standard of evidence that would be required as part of introducing new regulation.

Under the Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989, Australia applies international vehicle design and performance standards, with road vehicles generally required to meet national design and performance standards—the Australian Design Rules (ADRs)—before they can be supplied to the market. The ADRs set requirements for vehicle safety, environmental performance and anti theft protection in line with community expectations and international standards.

Recent initiatives have seen, for example, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) mandated for light commercial vehicles (complementing the earlier mandating of ESC for passenger cars) and Brake Assist Systems mandated for light commercial and passenger vehicles.

During the period 2010 to 2014, Australia led the development of a major international vehicle regulation; an occupant protection standard for side impact crashes with narrow objects, such as poles and trees. By setting performance requirements for head and thorax protection, the standard will deliver significant fatality and injury reductions in all side impact crashes, which currently account for 20% of Australia's road deaths. The standard came into force for new vehicles in Australia, through the ADRs, in late 2017.

Australia's vehicle standards are being increasingly harmonised with international—United Nations (UN)—regulations that are being adopted and implemented in a significant and growing number of countries. Harmonisation acts as a form of deregulation, removing trade barriers and delivering safety and environmental benefits by allowing vehicles that meet the latest UN regulations into the Australian market at the lowest possible cost.

Internationally-based design and performance standards for vehicles are not universally mandated: Australia must continue to legislate its minimum standards (the UN regulations mandated through the ADRs) and ensure that both locally manufactured and imported vehicles have been assessed and certified as meeting those standards.

This Action Plan includes a strong program of regulatory and non-regulatory activity to drive improved vehicle safety in Australia over the next three years. Action 4 calls for increased deployment of AEB in heavy and light vehicles, both through the development and implementation of new standards, and through increasing voluntary uptake through fleet purchasing and consumer information via ANCAP.

Action 9 focuses on greater uptake of safer vehicles and of emerging technologies with safety benefits, through promotion of ANCAP and the UCSR and other initiatives such as the National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP). The Action Plan also calls for updates to the latest crash standards, to better protect light vehicle occupants (Action C), consideration of safety equipment and standards that could better protect vulnerable road users sharing the roads with the heavy trucks that are used in construction in urban areas (Action K), and work to minimise regulatory barriers that are currently impeding the use of safer newer heavy vehicles in Australia (Action L).