Road Safety in Australia title text over image of man putting on seatbelt

Road safety in Australia: Where we are & where we’re headed

Tragically, 44,000 Australians are seriously injured on our roads each year. Land transport accidents are the leading cause of death in Australian children under 15 and the second for Australians aged 15 – 24 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020).  

 Too many Australian lives and livelihoods are lost on our roads, but there is hope for the future of road safety in Australia.   

According to the National Road Safety Strategy 2021-30 draft, as a proportion per population, we are making some progress.

 

What’s contributing to the decline in road incidents?  

Currently, road safety statistics suggest that we’re making marginal progress in the road-related injury department. Recent statistics recorded by the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport, Regional Development and Communications (BITRE, 2021) exhibit a total of 102 road deaths during the month of March 2021, which is 4.1% lower than the average for March over the past five years.  

Mark Dudman, a Senior Risk Consultant at DriveRisk, says current improvements can be attributed to road safety strategies in place in Australia, however, improvements are also due to external environmental factors.  

“COVID-19 has certainly reduced the volume of traffic, and this, as a byproduct, reduces the likelihood of collisions and fatalities. There is some credit that would go to the adoption of [mobile phone] detection systems, but as this is fragmented and not universally rolled out in high-risk areas, I don’t really think this has had a major impact.”   

Although results from March showed a promising decline, there is certainly room for improvement in the road safety sector. 

 

Why aren’t road safety organisations methods creating sustainable change? 

According to the Australian Automobile Association (2019), the National Road Safety Strategy had set a target to reduce severe road-related injuries by 30% between 2011 and 2020. Although with good intentions, the strategy failed, and in 2019, the road toll for the 12 months ending 30th June had been higher than it was in the 12 months ending June 2015.  

The NRSS puts the failure down to a lack of detailed data, unsafe roads, unsafe vehicles, and a fragmented approach to road safety (no existing national leadership to coordinate road safety efforts across the country).  

Though these factors may play a part in road safety, they are only responsible for a fraction of road collisions.  

“The main issue is not really road-related. The driver either makes bad decisions on speed or control of the vehicle in the conditions. Data is something that is unlikely going to be universally shared, so it would be hard for a consistent data set to be used.  

One of the main issues I see is that the industry bodies are putting their collective eggs in the wrong basket. They have all jumped on telematics and other reactive systems that really provide zero behaviour based safety improvement and provide very little that focuses on root cause, this failure makes any fact-based change near impossible.”  

Building on his ten-plus years within the road safety industry, Mark advises that improvements in road safety begin with tackling the most inevitable distraction in our vehicles – mobile phones. 

“Lowering distraction in cars is the most critical defense. We should be looking at something that disables mobile phones altogether. Leaning on experts in driver behaviour would be a great starting point; however, to date, no industry body has shown much interest in understanding root cause reporting systems such as DriveCam – which I think is very strange. 

How can any change be affected when the authorities and law makers are blind to the actual reasons for fatalities? Currently, they are guessing.”  

 

What we’re working towards 

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) recently released the 2021 – 30 National Road Safety Strategy draft. The consultation draft outlines a focus on safer roads, safer vehicles and safer road usage with targets to cut fatalities per capita by 50% and severe injury per capita by 30% by 2030. 

However, these road safety statistics are looking at the end result rather than the root cause. 

“This [road safety] approach will again be hit and miss. From experience, [industry bodies] will again put their eggs in the telematics and other lagging indicator baskets and go on blind to the root cause. I think that limits value and ability to make informed decisions about change.  

If we think about how much risk goes unreported/undetected and the fact that there is no real focus on systems that only focus on that critical area, it’s hard to think any dramatic changes will follow.” 

Scott Clayton, a Risk Consultant here at DriveRisk, builds on Mark’s statement with Automated Driver Assistance Systems. 

“Because drivers are not concentrating on the driving task at hand, we see a greater uptake of Automated Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and lane keeping assistance (LKA) which are all designed to kick in as a last resort and rescue the vehicle and it’s passengers from imminent danger because the driver has not maintained safe control of the vehicle.” 

 

Creating sustainable change through risk detection and coaching 

As Mark and Scott said, there are so many risk-mitigating strategies that address the imminent danger to the driver, but still the question remains – what research is available on the root cause of collisions? 

At DriveRisk, we collect 1.5 billion kilometres of driver assessment every week, which equates to over 5 million near-collisions. We risk assess via root cause analysis on every single event detected and captured. So the question for road safety authorities is with 93% of all collisions caused by poor driving decisions (whether they be distracted driving, drink driving or speeding), why aren’t we concentrating our efforts on the root cause?  

A successful safety model for changing driver behaviour doesn’t build on guesswork but instead helps safety managers, fleet managers and fleet drivers to understand the true facts and the actual root cause.  

Only after understanding this will we as a nation have any effective opportunity to change outcomes.

 

Infographic demonstrating how DriveRisk works for road safety

 

Identify, assess, control 

Our state-of-the-art fleet risk management and vehicle tracking solutions follow a tried and tested approach to risk mitigation for all fleet operators, fleet drivers and the Australian driver community at large.  

 

Identify 

Using Vehicle (G-force) and Driver (MV + AI), we can accurately detect and record risky behaviours such as unsafe lane changes, speeding, mobile phone usage, fatigue, tailgating and more, in fact DriveCam monitors over 60 driving root cause or collision leading behaviours. 

 

Assess 

Video recordings show the detected events and determine the circumstances around risky behaviour. 

Depending on the level of risk, drivers receive an independent and objective risk score between zero and ten to associate the driver profile and track driver progress. Risk scoring helps identify collision leading behaviours, produce accurate driver profiles, and track performance and progress. 

 

Control 

Fleet safety managers then use the driver profiles to provide the necessary coaching and support which kick start the risk mitigation education processes whilst the in-cab alerts help with the self-correction and ongoing reductions of collision leading behaviours in the future.  

 

National road safety week Australia 2021 

In acknowledgment of National Road Safety Week Australia 2021 (16th May – 23rd May), our Risk Consultants Mark and Scott leave Aussie motorists with some thoughtful advice. 

Scott:  

“Apart from full-time professional drivers such as truck and delivery drivers and taxi drivers, in order to maintain concentration on the driving task, try to limit your trips to short drives. If the vehicle does not have apple car play or android auto, just put the phone away and out of reach.   

For those full-time professional drivers, they should know better and should really lead by example. 

Everyone knows that if you want to learn something properly, you go to a professional like a golf coach or a cooking lesson. Our professional drivers should be leading the Way.”  

 

Mark: 

“Driving to conditions and eliminating distractions. It is hard to state that driving standards are universally poor, but you see it day in day out; people take risks, make bad decisions, and use their mobile phones religiously when driving. We need to change people’s mindsets on risk. It goes back to the initial issue – there’s no system focus on the detection of risk-based behaviour, so little will change.”  

Every motorist on our Aussie roads has a duty of care every time they enter a vehicle. Make the promise to drive safely on our roads and join us in our road safety pledge today. 

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