Road safety in Australia

National Road Safety Strategy

The National Road Safety Strategy is an initiative of the Transport and Infrastructure Council, and is established cooperatively by the Commonwealth and state and territory governments.

Australia's first National Road Safety Strategy was established by federal, state and territory transport Ministers in 1992. It provided a framework for national collaboration on road safety improvement that has evolved over the last two decades. Our previous national strategy, for the period 2001 to 2010, aimed to achieve a 40 per cent reduction in the per capita rate of road deaths. We fell some way short of the target—recording an actual rate reduction of 34 per cent—but we strengthened our commitment to national action on road safety issues and made significant gains in many areas.

Under the 2001–2010 strategy, Australia was one of the first countries to formally adopt the Safe System approach to road safety improvement. The Safe System approach takes a holistic view of the road transport system and the interactions of its various elements. It aspires to create a road transport system in which human mistakes do not result in death or serious injury.

Many severe road crashes are preventable and history provides evidence that the right interventions can make a significant positive impact. Since 1970, Australia has continuously achieved large and lasting road safety gains from road improvements, safer vehicles, lower speed limits, graduated licensing and a range of successful behavioural programs targeting drink driving, seatbelt usage and speeding. Independent studies and other objective evidence have demonstrated the success of each of these initiatives in reducing road trauma. Despite these achievements, road crashes continue to cause large numbers of deaths and serious injuries each year. The social impacts are devastating—and the annual cost to the Australian economy has been estimated to be at least $27 billion.

Governance

In Australia's federal system, government responsibilities for road safety vary across jurisdictions:

The Australian Government is responsible for regulating safety standards for new vehicles, and for allocating infrastructure resources, including for safety, across the national highway and local road networks.

State and territory governments are 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 responsibilities for funding, planning, designing and operating the road networks in their local areas.

In recognition of the special relationship between Australia and New Zealand, the New Zealand Government participates in both the Transport and Infrastructure Council and Austroads. New Zealand's national road safety strategy is Safer Journeys.

Transport agencies in the states and territories and the Commonwealth take the lead role in implementing and facilitating the Directions and specific actions set out in the National Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan. A number of other key bodies also provide support in relevant areas. These include Austroads, the National Transport Commission (NTC), the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA) and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

National coordination arrangements for the National Road Safety Strategy are managed though two cross-jurisdictional committees:

  • The Austroads Safety Task Force (STF), comprised of senior road safety officials from Australian Government, state, territory and New Zealand transport agencies, the National Transport Council (NTC), and Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA).
  • The Strategic Vehicle Safety and Environment Group (SVSEG), comprised of representatives from Australian Government, state, territory and New Zealand transport agencies, the NTC, the National Heavy vehicle regulator (NHVR) and from automotive industry and road user bodies.