Australian cyclist deaths surge and road safety strategy ‘failing’
The Guardian, 8 August 2018
Australia’s road safety strategy is failing, according to the nation’s peak motoring body, with cyclists recording the biggest increase in the number of road fatalities. A report by the Australian Automobile Association shows there were 1,222 deaths on the road in 2017-18 and, for the first time, all states are on track to miss the national road safety targets they signed up to in 2011.
Over the past 12 months, 580 drivers were killed, which is up 1.8% from the previous year. Passenger deaths also increased over the same period by 3.8% to 219, pedestrian deaths increased by 4.7% to 177, while motorcyclist deaths decreased 21%. Cyclist deaths jumped by the largest proportion from 25 to 45 over the same period – an increase of 80%.
The Bicycle Network chief executive, Craig Richards, said the report showed the current approach by states and territories “isn’t working and there needs to be immediate intervention”.
“Bike rider fatalities in Australia haven’t decreased for two decades and sadly it seems there will be no improvement in 2018,” Richards said.
Bicycle Network has called for road upgrades to separate bikes and cars, as well as technological improvements in cars to avoid crashes, such as lane-keep assistance, autonomous braking and mobile phone blockers.
The AAA’s quarterly benchmarking report looks at whether states and territories are on track to meet the target of reducing the number of people killed on the road by 30% between 2011 and 2020. On that measure, all states and territories apart from the ACT are failing and the results are even worse for some road users.
The AAA chief executive, Michael Bradley, said the result was the worst on record and far more needed to be done to reduce road deaths.
“Road trauma currently costs the national economy more than $29bn annually and the observed lack of progress reflects Australia’s uncoordinated and disorganised approach to road safety,” he said. “Critical elements such as data collection and research are not being coordinated or harmonised, and jurisdictions face no consequences for failing to deliver agreed outcomes.”
The reasons behind the rise in road trauma is still unclear but last year the federal government announced an inquiry into the national road safety strategy, which as part of its terms of reference has been tasked with identifying the causes.
Distraction, both by mobile phones and other electronic devices, as well as speeding, road congestion and drug and alcohol use, have all been thought to contribute.
A study conducted last week by the Victorian Transport Accident Commission, which surveyed about 2,000 drivers, found a third had used their mobile phone illegally while driving in the past three months and 35% believed they should be able to go 5km/h above the speed limit in a 100km/h zone.
Another survey of 1,900 drivers released on Monday found that 20% of drivers admitted to sending a text while behind the wheel, while 13% said they had answered a phone without using hands-free. Other distractions included 13% of drivers who had leant back to deal with children and 9% who admitted to steering with their knees.