SAFETY MESSAGE: Michael McCormack says we must embrace and manage technological changes if we want to reduce the number of deaths on Australia's roads.
SAFETY MESSAGE: Michael McCormack says we must embrace and manage technological changes if we want to reduce the number of deaths on Australia's roads. Francis Witsenhuysen

Continuous improvement driving road safety strategy

ROAD safety is of deep concern to each and every one of us. For me it's personal. As a former regional journalist, I've covered far too many road accidents and incidents, leaving me with far too many painful memories of the impact on families as well as emergency services personnel.

No matter where you live, the Federal Government wants to help you get home sooner and safer. However, more than 100 Australians are hospitalised daily and almost 100 die each month due to road crashes. And even though regional Australians make up around a quarter of our population, they account for more than half of the deaths on our nation's roads.

When we talk about road safety it's often in terms of numbers. But those numbers represent people. People who loved and were loved and who are no longer with us. People who had so much more to give and live.

Road safety is about people. Severe road crashes are preventable and history provides evidence that the right interventions can significantly reduce harm. We need to make sure every dollar spent on road safety works.

Yes, there's been major progress over the years, and that's great - our roads, vehicles and road users are becoming safer. Education and awareness programs are more prevalent.

The wearing of seat belts, lower speed limits, random breath testing, better designed vehicles and so many other initiatives have reduced the number of lives lost dramatically from what it was in the 1970s.

It's no secret we will not reach our target to reduce road deaths and serious injuries by at least 30 per cent under the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020.

The latest data shows we are well short of that target. Yes, our roads and vehicles are safer, but there is more that we can do to work towards a system that does not kill or injure people. One death or severe injury on the road is one too many.

In September 2017, the Federal Government, supported by the States and Territories, launched an independent inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy.

My ministerial statement on road safety in Parliament today is part of the response to this Inquiry Report.

A bipartisan political approach now and into the future can only help deliver better road safety outcomes, and is one this Government supports. This is demonstrated through our ongoing actions and investments in pursuing targeted, responsible improvements, which can and do change people's lives.

Strong national leadership is needed to address the hidden epidemic of road trauma. In my role as Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, I hold overall responsibility within the Cabinet for road safety. I believe this gives the best opportunity to put safety into the mainstream of our programs.

I have already announced a review of national road safety governance in conjunction with State and Territory governments, one of the recommendations of the inquiry. Another of the 12 recommendations is to accelerate the uptake of proven vehicle safety technologies and innovation.

We are already doing a lot of work in this space. We need to ensure Australia is ready for the challenges new technology brings while at the same time supporting a transition that doesn't increase risks.

I know there is uncertainty about the transition ahead. What there is certainty about, is that the Government is committed to adapting to disruption and change, and collaborating with industry, other governments and the research and development community.

I announced last year the establishment of an Office of Future Transport Technology within the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities.

This office will work across government, industry and other key entities to ensure Australians can access the benefits of future transport technologies while ensuring they are kept safe as the technologies are developed and deployed. The new office enhances the Government's strategic leadership role in implementing future transport technologies in Australia successfully and responsibly.

The Australian future transport and mobility industry is expected to generate more than $16 billion in revenue by 2025. While representing an emerging business opportunity for the national economy, future transport technologies have great potential to reduce the huge cost of road crashes in Australia each year.

These advances can also help reduce the significant social impacts road deaths and injuries have on families and the wider community.

Collaboration really is the key to success in any new venture. Last year, Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US State of Michigan, a long-standing global centre of automotive innovation. Through this partnership, Australia and Michigan will collaborate on projects and share scientific, technological, regulatory and policy learnings to ensure safety and technology go hand in hand.

Ultimately, a global approach to testing and validating technology will be required, but this partnership ensures Australia has the opportunity to be at the cutting edge, which is where we should be.

The bottom line is that the road safety landscape is changing as technology forces change on our roads, vehicles and drivers. We must embrace and manage these changes if we want to reduce the number of deaths on Australia's roads. Road safety is a shared responsibility and something that should unite all Australians.

Big Rigs

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