There is no way of putting a finer point on it, some of Australia’s crash statistics do not make us look good. The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) has published its annual statistical report for 2013 on road deaths and road death rates for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations including Australian States and Territories.
In the report, the figures, comparing our numbers to the rest of the rich world, put us no better than average. Parts of the country, notably the Northern Territory, have road death stats which are the worst reported. It doesn’t matter which way you present it, road deaths per 100,000, deaths per 10,000 vehicles or deaths per 100 million vehicle kilometres travelled, we never get any better than average.
It doesn’t do us any good to say we are sitting at the median figure, showing there’s just as many worse than us, in terms of road deaths. Do we want to compare ourselves with the Chile, Poland and the US? We like to think we are a more responsible culture than that, and we are, but not quite as much as we thought.
The two large states, NSW and Victoria, which have gone hard in the last decade with tight speed control through speed fines using the fixed and mobile cameras, come out best in the figures. Victoria, NSW and the ACT are consistently ahead of the curve, within Australia. This would tend to suggest the draconian regime, often characterised as blatant revenue raising, is actually effective.
Safety has become a massive issue in recent years and we often complain about the silly and unnecessary rules, regulations and inductions brought about by the fear of litigation and public liability. This is often about business covering its backside, while, clearly, having a duty of care to employees and customers.
Out on the public roads, it’s a different matter. Road design has to show competence in maximising safety outcomes, but that’s it. It’s a free for all and we sit back and let the insurance companies divvy up the blame, for our actions as individuals, and charge accordingly.
It looks like it’s about time we took on some personal responsibility and made it our job to save lives, as a nation. Currently, we are killing nearly 1200 members of our population every year on our roads. If we could get the death rate down to a level the same as Sweden’s, we would only be killing 630 of our own per annum.
Where’s a real safety culture going to come from? It has to come from us. Perhaps trucking, as an industry can show a bit of leadership here. If we did, it wouldn’t harm the public image of trucking, at the same time.