Road safety review needs you

Senate Inquiry

SPEED kills, right? If you disagree, and have for a long time, now is your chance to put up or shut up.

The Australian Government has asked for your say on how you think we should be keeping drivers safe on our roads. It is holding an inquiry into road safety in Australia, with an open-ended brief on what will become a series of recommendations due to be tabled by September 2015.

The inquiry will look at everything from speed limits to crash trauma, the different needs between city and country commuters, and quirky Australian Design Rules that force overseas car makers to make costly tweaks to their products before they can be sold here. Submissions to the inquiry close on February 27.

Mercedes-Benz Australia wants to have its voice heard and plans to focus on the role advances in vehicle safety, and not a blind focus on speed, has played in reducing road trauma.

David McCarthy, a spokesman for the autobahn-devouring luxury marque, says Mercedes wants to ensure that standards set by the ADRs, which mandate everything from a vehicle’s crashworthiness to ride heights and even indicator colours, are not watered down to meet more lax global standards.

“The Australian Design Rules have actually delivered a significant reduction in the road toll,” McCarthy says. “If they are harmonised with other markets that perhaps don’t have such rules, then that can’t be a good thing, because it means the bar for safety will be lowered.”

He says technology such as ESC, ABS and airbags have all made a “very significant contribution” to road safety over time.

“There are many factors at play here,” he says, “but if they want to have an inquiry about road safety, I hope they discover that the overwhelming majority of the reduction in trauma and death has been because of the safety equipment in cars; it has not been because of speed cameras.”

Another area of focus flagged is the roads on which we drive.
The Australian Automobile Association, which claims to represent up to seven million motorists nationwide, says we already have safe road users and cars, but now need the infrastructure to match.

It’s expected to call on the inquiry to tip revenue from motorists via measures such as the fuel excise (which this financial year snares $180 million) into improving the road network.

“Our research … shows the sort of gains that can be made [in terms of improving road infrastructure],” AAA chief executive Andrew McKellar said. “You’ve got to look at how to spend smarter on roads – in some cases we are over-engineering, and that’s not necessarily efficient.”

A recent NRMA report showed improvements to a section of the Princes Highway between Dapto, New South Wales, and the Victorian border has reduced the risk of collisions by 90 percent over the past five years.
McKellar says speed limits also need attention.

“My view is we’ve got to be safe and responsible, but what I do reject is that the only solution [to making roads safe] is to reduce speeds,” he says. “We should be looking to have maximum convenience and to have international standards in relation to the application of speed limits.

“But if we were going to do that, we also need world-standard roads [and] there are almost no areas in Australia where we can claim that is the case.”
BARRY PARK

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