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The consultative process provided a range of ideas and reforms, many of which deserve further consideration within the context of developing future action plans. The resources allocated and timeline requirements for the inquiry necessitated a focus on high-level actions and directions which, when implemented, provide the platform for many of these ideas and reforms to be reviewed and addressed.
Drawing on the insights provided through the consultative process—together with the collective experience and knowledge of an established advisory panel of experts—it became evident that a transformative approach to road safety was needed across Australia. Road trauma targets are not being met and, at the same time, the Safe System approach espoused in the National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020 is often not being honoured ‘in the field’. There is a disconnect between noble intentions, resourcing the actions and road safety practice.
A key finding of the inquiry is implementation failure. The lack of focus on a harm elimination agenda means that sub-optimal results are unintentionally achieved because some improvement in safety is often regarded as sufficient or is assumed. We accept that we are making the roads, vehicles and users “safer” but frequently miss the opportunity to make them “SAFE” outright. The distinction is subtle but vitally important. As part of providing a safe transport system, we must move from a coping mechanism to one that fixes the problem once and for all.
Moreover, the scale of response and the mechanisms in place to ensure judicious allocation of resources are critical if Australia is truly committed to eliminating all harm on its road network.
The substantial issue from submissions, forums, meetings and discussions was the need for dramatic change in road safety management, given the inadequately acknowledged national road injury epidemic and the national costs to the economy now and in the next 30 years from road crashes.
Many safety aspects have not received sufficient focus or resources under the life of the current strategy. These relate to accountability, the scale and source of funding, gap analysis, capacity building, change management, quality assurance, technology, insurance and organisational culture.
It is well recognised that the costs of reducing trauma from road crashes are borne in the health, social and productivity sectors of the economy. Some of the benefits of a judicious application of safety initiatives demonstrated to the inquiry show a return across portfolios of up to 20:1. Leadership from the very top of government is required to recognise and unlock these multi-agency high-returns on investment.
Failing to improve our current situation will result in 12,000 people killed and 360,000 injured at a cost of over $300 billion over the next decade alone. We must act on a scale that matters, with a disaster response that reflects the true measure of the problem. Lives depend on it.