RACS has long recognised that road trauma is a serious public health problem of epidemic proportions. In the 1960s surgeons identified that they could be influential in this area with policy makers and legislators. This was the driving force behind the establishment of the Road Trauma Committee. Through this Committee (and subsequent advisory sub-committee) RACS has been a major contributor and advocator of mandatory seat-belt wearing (1970s), drink driving countermeasures and the compulsory wearing of helmets by cyclists (1980s to 1990s).
RACS demonstrated significant leadership through advocating for mandatory seatbelts usage resulting in legislative change. Victoria was the first State to introduce compulsory fitting and wearing of seatbelts (22 December 1970) followed by the rest of the country and the world. Although there was no strong evidence base at the time to support that introduction of this legislation would reduce the number of road deaths, thankfully common sense prevailed. As a result, road deaths in Victoria dramatically declined in the early 1970s.
RACS has focused on the safety of all road users and children, recently lobbying for improvements in the graduated licensing system, child restraint laws, quad bike safety, retention of mandatory helmet legislation for cyclists and alcohol-related trauma.
RACS commends governments of the last decade for prioritising road safety by committing to the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020. This Strategy analyses road safety risks in terms of the elements of the safe systems approach to road safety, and makes important recommendations about how each of these elements can contribute to reductions in fatalities and serious injuries.
RACS' submission to the 2015 Senate Inquiry into Aspects of Road Safety in Australia urged governments to continue to implement all of the recommendations in the strategy. This was agreed to by all State, Territory and Commonwealth Ministers responsible for road safety, and, if adopted and implemented in its entirety, will significantly reduce fatalities and serious injuries arising from road trauma.
The target of at least a 30% reduction in road related fatalities still equates to more than 800 deaths per year and an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 serious injuries. This is unacceptable to surgeons who see road trauma victims on a daily basis, and should be unacceptable to all Australians.
Unfortunately it is apparent that the 30% target will not be met by 2021. RACS again strongly urges all levels of government to join in a united effort to make permanent and significant reductions in road trauma a number one priority across all portfolios. More can and should be done.
In essence, in spite of all the efforts of advocacy groups including RACS, and government at all levels, in the generic sense we have failed to prevent death and injury on our roads. To acknowledge this and look to a paradigm shift in direction would seem timely.
RACS strongly supports the Australasian College of Road Safety's (ACRS) 2017 Submission to Federal Parliamentarians - The way forward to reduce road trauma. This comprehensive submission outlines a number of actions that can reduce road trauma.
ACRS reports that the most important overarching action is to acknowledge that the causes and consequences of road trauma are spread across many portfolios, not just transport and infrastructure. The health portfolio, for example, holds a major stake given that hospitalisations for around half the most severely injured patients in Australia are transport related.
RACS sees real potential to significantly reduce road-related deaths and serious injury if governments can take immediate action in the following areas:
- Engage multiple government portfolios to become involved in the prevention of road trauma.
- Improve the quality of road trauma data by establishing agreed definitions, methodologies, and measurement tools.
- Document the complete journey of the seriously injured patient to gain a better understanding of the true cost of injury and where and how it is occurring.
- Advocate for legislation for enhanced safety features for all new vehicles (cars and heavy vehicles)
- Activate point to point cameras for all road users.
- Safer behaviour for all road-users.
- Speed control
Read the complete submission at the link below.