The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is grateful for the opportunity to review and comment on the draft National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 provided by the Office of Road Safety, Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication. RACS commends the extensive consultation that has culminated in the formulation of this draft strategy.

RACS praises the comprehensive nature of the draft strategy and the alignment of the Australian national road safety aim with UN resolution 74/299, "Improving global road safety", proclaiming the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, with the target of preventing at least 50 per cent of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030, with a vision of zero fatalities and serious injuries by 2050.

As the leading advocate for surgical standards, professionalism in surgery and surgical education in Australia and New Zealand, RACS is committed to taking informed and principled positions on issues of public health at both state and federal levels.

RACS has long recognised that road trauma is a serious public health problem of epidemic proportions. Many Fellows of the College see the effects of road trauma on a regular basis and in the case of trauma surgeons, almost daily. RACS has been a major advocate for mandatory seatbelt wearing (1970s), drink driving countermeasures (from 1970s) and the compulsory wearing of helmets by cyclists (1980s to 1990s).

RACS strongly advocated for road safety enhancement (PDF 173.78KB) during the 2018 Inquiry into the effectiveness of the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020.

A recent RACS Submission to the House of Representatives Joint Select Committee on Road Safety Inquiry (PDF 292.51KB) highlighted a number of steps that can be taken to reduce Australia’s road crash rates, trauma and deaths on our roads

The College is satisfied that several of our recommendations have been considered as part of the consultation process and incorporated in the draft 2021-2030 strategy.

RACS acknowledges the following inclusions:

  • The central role that the Office for Road Safety will play in the Strategy. The establishment of the Office was a key recommendation of the 2018 Inquiry, and it will play an important role in providing national oversight and ensuring ongoing accountability in the new strategy.
  • Focus on data enhancement. RACS recently co-signed a supplementary submission to the Senate Joint Select Committee on Road Safety. This submission highlighted how the collection and linkage of data throughout the COVID-19 pandemic greatly assisted Australian Governments in their response to keeping the community up to date with daily updates on the number of Intensive care unit (ICU) beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and with mitigating the virus. A similar approach is needed to road safety. The community now has an appetite and understanding of ICU numbers and burden on the health system. We are pleased to see that ‘Data’ is a priority and that “progress is being made to bring together a national picture of serious injuries from road crashes by mid-2021”. It is imperative that the final strategy elevates access to timely and high-quality data as an urgent priority. The New South Wales interactive crash statistics database provides a template that might reasonably be matched on a national scale.
  • A new National Data Hub which will focus on how effective infrastructure investment and other countermeasures are in delivering reductions in deaths and serious injuries.
  • The call to “prioritise and adopt proven technological improvements for all vehicle types through new Australian Design Rules as quickly as possible”. We note that existing crash avoidance technologies (autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping support, adaptive speed control, blind spot detection) have been identified by the strategy. To achieve scale and timeliness, verified life-saving technologies must be mandated in all new vehicles imported into Australia and not simply encouraged or implemented on a voluntary basis.
  • Recognition that speed management is a factor in all road crashes and that even relatively low speeds can kill (highlighted with the inclusion of Wramborg’s model for fatality probability vs vehicle collision speeds). This is supported by specific speed management strategies, such as the development of a Regulation Impact Statement on reducing the open road default speed limits for regional roads.
  • Star safety rating of all roads throughout Australia

While RACS supports the draft strategy, it is important to reiterate that the hard work has yet to begin. Australia failed to meet the conservative targets identified in the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020. We cannot allow this to happen again. It is therefore imperative that we remain committed to delivering the objectives of the new strategy throughout its tenure. This includes updating the Strategy when necessary and dedicating the appropriate resources and funding required to allow this to happen.

Approximately one hundred people are hospitalized each day in Australia currently, with injuries caused in road crashes. Surgeons treat most of these victims. Most of the crashes are preventable. RACS is dedicated to reducing this burden. RACS resolves to work in partnership, striving to achieve the goals of the National Road Safety Strategy 2021 – 2030.