Major changes are taking place after the failure of the previous national road safety strategy

Emergency services attend a truck crash on the Federal Highway outside Canberra. Picture: Matt Loxton
Emergency services attend a truck crash on the Federal Highway outside Canberra. Picture: Matt Loxton

Health, transport, industry and education sectors will be asked to submit contributions to a proposed joint select committee on road safety in an effort to head off another potential political embarrassment over Australia's rising road trauma.

The previous 2011-2020 national road safety strategy failed to achieve its targets, with the independent reviewers finding "small groups in each jurisdiction work tirelessly to gain safety improvements however, the scale of response is inadequate against the size of the problem".

The federal government's office of road safety has now drafted its 2021-30 national road safety strategy, aiming for a stated 50 per cent reduction in road deaths over the period, and a 30 per cent fall in serious injury.

"Achieving these targets, particularly for serious injury, will be difficult," the strategy states.

The findings of the 2018 independent review into the failures of the previous strategy identified "all levels of government, the private sector and key road safety stakeholders must become a part of the solution".

The joint chairs of that review, Associate Professor Jeremy Woolley and trauma surgeon Dr John Crozier, said without any meaningful change there would be "12,000 people who will be killed (on current trends) on Australian roads over the next decade - and the more than 360,000 people who will be hospitalised - at an aggregated cost of over $300 billion".

"This wouldn't be tolerated, yet horrific carnage and death on our roads is the norm," the authors said.

"Entrenched perspectives in government, road authorities and treasuries have meant that progression out of this situation continues to be frustratingly slow."

Before the previous election, the ACT had a dedicated Road Safety portfolio, held by Greens minister Shane Rattenbury. Those duties have now been absorbed into the Transport portfolio, held by Minister Chris Steel.

The ACT road toll currently stands at four, double that of the same time last year, with the latest being a 19-year-old driver on the Monaro Highway earlier this week. Across NSW, the January road toll was 26, the same as last year. February had 28 road deaths in NSW, two fewer than last year.

What ids not better known or understood is the level of road trauma - major and minor injuries, the ongoing care needed for victims and even post-event trauma - because every jurisdiction reports it differently, and the data is usually well of date before it is published.

One of the key elements to the new road safety strategy will be an evidence-based approach, with a national data hub developed to prioritise developing issues.

The call for multiple agencies to contribute to the nine-member bipartisan joint inquiry is most unusual and reflects the high level of concern within the federal government that without a concerted, multi-agency effort, the next national strategy is also doomed to fail.

Included in the joint select committee goals is to inquire and report on "opportunities for government policy in health, education, industry, transport and other areas to contribute to road trauma elimination".

The committee is required to present its report by July 1 this year.

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This story Road safety inquiry aims to head off more 'horrific carnage' first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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