Ministers miss opportunity to curb rising road toll

A meeting of the nation’s transport ministers in Hobart yesterday missed a golden opportunity to curb Australia’s surging road toll – which is rising by about 5% a year – by linking road safety data transparency with Commonwealth road funding to states.

The meeting was meant to consider the next National Partnership Agreement on Land Transport Infrastructure Projects, which will dictate how $50 billion in federal road funding is allocated to states and territories over the next five years.

The nation’s peak motoring body and its campaign partners want the Federal Government to use the new NPA to require states to provide data about the causes of crashes, the state of our roads and police traffic enforcement. The data could be used by experts to create more effective road safety policies and show Australians whether politicians invest in roads to save lives or win votes in marginal electorates.

However, this issue was not progressed at the meeting and appears to have been shelved until ministers meet again in the second quarter of 2024.

Australian Automobile Association Managing Director Michael Bradley said he was disappointed the issue had been kicked down the road.

“Despite billions spent each year on our roads, deaths are increasing,” Mr Bradley said.

“The public needs transparent data to understand what is going wrong and whether the funding priorities are appropriate.

“If crucial road safety data remains secret, there’s no way of knowing whether cuts and approvals are being made to make roads safer or to win votes in target electorates.”

Mr Bradley said the AAA, backed by a large coalition of supporters, would continue to argue for data transparency as a commonsense reform to save lives on our roads.

“Until this reform is implemented, we will not be able to identify the reasons for rising road deaths and develop the most effective measures for reducing crashes, and doubts will remain about pork-barrelling in road funding decisions,” he said.

Early in October, the AAA began its Data Saves Lives campaign pressing for data transparency to improve road safety policies and accountability in road funding.

Mr Bradley said thousands of Australians had engaged with the campaign, which is supported by all the nation’s motoring clubs as well as 17 national organisations representing motorists, motorcyclists, truckers, pedestrians, surgeons, insurers, road engineers and safety advocates.

This week, the Australian Medical Association declared its support for the campaign.

The AAA proposals have now been endorsed by all Liberal, National, Greens and Teals MPs in the House of Representatives. But with only one exception, Labor MPs have declined to support road safety data transparency.

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