The number of people killed or injured on Australian roads is increasing. Why? A mix of factors, including increased car use after the end of pandemic limitations, the choice of vehicles (more SUVs), and the status of the road infrastructure, particularly in rural and regional locations, are to blame, according to the experts.
Surprisingly, despite the substantial role that the federal government plays in the funding of roads, this information is not shared with the federal government despite the fact that it is already gathered by the states and territories.
There is a possibility that will soon alter.
The Australian Automobile Association will launch its “Data Saves Lives” campaign on Wednesday. The campaign is an attempt to convince the government to condition $10 billion in federal road funding on a requirement to open the hood and make the data public. The AA will start its campaign by popping the hood.
The AAA cites a promise made by Catherine King, who was serving as the opposition minister of transport at the time, one week prior to the election in 2022 to “improve the timeliness and quality of road trauma data.”
King stated that she will “look for opportunities to ensure that we can extract better-quality road safety data from states as well as territories in return for funding of road projects.” King’s statement can be found in full here.
A parliamentary inquiry in 2022 made a recommendation that federal financing be conditional on the data, including “where practicable” the star rating of highways. This recommendation was accepted.
However, the current Shadow Transport Minister, Bridget McKenzie, believes that the government has been “sleeping at the wheel” due to the fact that the terms of reference for a review of the national partnership agreement are “completely silent” on the subject of road safety data.
The adversary organization is working hand in hand with the AAA’s campaign. McKenzie has stated that it has her “full support” and that the inability to obtain road safety statistics is a “travesty.” This is especially true in light of the fact that the number of people killed on the roads is rising.
Michael Bradley, the managing director of the AAA, has stated that “We need to see the facts so that we can understand what is going wrong.”
The government of Alban is currently in the process of drafting a new national cooperation agreement with the states. This agreement will be for a period of five years and will be finalized in December. “The clock is ticking,” says Bradley.
The campaign will, according to him, “give Australians their opportunity to tell their local MP what they think about this important issue.” Marginal seat MPs will be in pole position when the AAA puts the pedal to the floor in terms of their support for the campaign.
Along for the voyage are 15 partner organizations, some of which include the Pedestrian Council, the Motorcycle Riders Association of Australia, and the Australian Road Assessment Program, which is the real organization responsible for grading the roads.
The assistant minister for transport, Carol Brown, stated that “after a decade of neglect under the former Coalition government, national road safety data harmonisation is finally a focus.” A new data-sharing agreement is scheduled to be “signed off at the end of the year,” according to Brown.
On the other hand, it is not anticipated that this will include data regarding policing, as this topic is dealt with elsewhere in the government. Commuters who have been caught speeding in a zone that they believed to be a main road but which fact has a speed limit of 40 kilometers per hour may be out of luck if they want to find out whether or not the speed trap is effective.
And maybe the most shocking omission is that it does not appear that the commonwealth will be given a ranking for the quality of the roads. It would appear that the states and territories are concerned that this may result in comparisons that are not fair, such as newspaper headlines stating that the majority of the roads in the Northern Territory are only rated one or two stars out of five.
It is difficult to conceive of another policy area in which a government would propose disregarding a disparity in outcomes rather than evaluating it, closing it, or at the very least justifying why there is a gap.
It is common practice for a potential car purchaser to inquire about the Ancap star safety rating of a particular automobile that they are considering purchasing. If it does not meet their expectations, they are free to choose another vehicle.
Because roads aren’t as straightforward as they seem, you can’t necessarily change your route just because your regular commute takes you along a questionable road. However, you may demand that the government improve the road, which is why AAA believes that providing access to the data serves an important function in terms of transparency.
Without crash and road safety statistics, it would be impossible for us to determine whether or not governments are sponsoring projects to gain votes rather than save lives.
Obtaining better crash data is not, however, a one-way track. If we had more precise demographic data on accidents, it’s possible that some people’s insurance premiums might go up as a result.
It is unclear at this point in the year whether the actions of the AAA, which have been compared to doing burnouts on the lawns of parliament, will be sufficient to influence decision-making. However, the minister should at least explain why this particular course of action was not taken.