More than 170 road safety professionals, industry representatives, academics and members of the community gathered in Brisbane on 6 May 2021 to take part in Roads Australia's Spotlight On Safety.
Road safety is a critical issue, and is RA's number one policy priority. Spotlight On Safety is an important part of RA's objective to lead policy discussions, facilitate opportunities for collaboration and champion policy, regulatory and community-driven solutions that will make a practical contribution to enhanced road safety outcomes.
RA is a Principal Partner of National Road Safety Week (16-23 May), and Spotlight On Safety was an opportunity for participants to make their own commitment to 'Take The Pledge' and drive so that others survive.
As RA President Michael Bushby noted in his opening remarks, it is always important to acknowledge progress - and we have come a long way since 1970, when almost 3,800 people died on Australian roads in a single year.
However, as the harrowing personal stories related by several of our presenters throughout the day confirmed, road trauma also comes with a significant human cost. 1,200 deaths on our roads each year - and 40,000 serious injuries - is a figure that remains far too high.
Spotlight On Safety was an important opportunity for those working in the transport and infrastructure sectors to reaffirm their own commitment to reducing the occurrence of fatalities and serious injuries on our roads.
Attendees heard from nationally and internationally prominent policy leaders and road safety advocates, including:
- Hon. Mark Bailey MP - Minister for Transport & Main Roads;
- Jean Todt - President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and United
Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety;
- Rob McInerney - CEO, International Road Assessment Program (iRAP);
- Mandi Mees - Executive Leader, Safety, National Transport Commission (NTC);
- Jeff Doyle - CEO, Altus Traffic Group;
- Rita Excell - Executive Director, Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI)
- Gabby O'Neill - Head of the Office of Road Safety;
- Peter Frazer - President, Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH) Group;
There were also presentations by road agencies across several jurisdictions, senior leaders within transport regulators, those working to develop and deploy technological innovations that will enhance road safety and those focused on ensuring those who work to construct and maintain our road network can do so in a safe environment.
Among the key themes to emerge from the day were:
- Enhancing the safety of road infrastructure itself is crucial, though the use of simple engineering measures such as audio-tactile line marking and widening and sealing shoulders;
- Setting bold targets is essential - and so is keeping authorities accountable for delivering them. The National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 needs to reflect this ambition and set out a credible pathway towards Vision Zero;
- We must speed up adoption of technology-based solutions - whether to reduce driver distraction (eg, mobile phone detection cameras) or make sites safer for road workers by embracing digital solutions, reducing their exposure to physical dangers;
- Driverless vehicle technology can boost safety and productivity outcomes - but we have to get the regulatory settings right to engender community confidence about the safety of driverless and connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs);
- Despite knowing the dangers, too many Australians are taking risks by driving when fatigued or using mobile phones. Campaigns are needed to make these as socially unacceptable as drink driving.
- Greater efforts are still required to enhance community understanding about everyday road use scenarios, including how to safety interact with heavy vehicles and exercise appropriate caution when driving around roadworks; and
- Australia requires a considered, consistent approach to collecting data on incidents involving road workers. Only by fully understanding where and why incidents are occurring can industry and governments formulate effective policy responses.
These issues should now be vigorously pursued by governments, industry and the community.
As RA President Michael Bushby noted in his concluding comments, all of us have a responsibility to be "road safety warriors" and drive the cultural change needed to reduce the impact of road trauma.
Roads Australia thanks all our Spotlight On Safety presenters for their enthusiastic participation and willingness to discuss confronting and challenging issues. We similarly thank all attendees for the quality of their questions, which facilitated meaningful panel discussions throughout the day.
We also extend our sincere appreciation to our event sponsors - Altus Traffic, the Australasian Certification Authority for Reinforcing and Structural Steel (ACRS) and Transurban, whose generous support made Spotlight on Safety possible.
The program for the day can be viewed here.
Presentations from our speakers will appear here as they become available.