Last year, all Australian governments committed to the goal of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries on their road network by 2050 (Vision Zero).
While pedestrians, cyclists, riders and drivers will continue to be involved in crashes due to mistakes, medical episodes and reckless behaviour, these crashes do not have to result in death or hospitalisation.
Considering the current road safety environment in Tasmania this seems to be an impossible goal to achieve in such a short time frame.
The number of serious injuries resulting from road crashes is increasing by 3.3 per cent per annum nationally.
In Tasmania serious injuries increased by 17 per cent during 2021.
The number of fatalities per 100,000 people is currently 4.4 nationally, and seven in Tasmania. Sweden achieved 2.1 fatalities per 100,000 people in 2019.
Road trauma can be reduced by; a safer road infrastructure, vehicles that either prevent a crash or reduce or absorb some of the crash forces, appropriate speed limits set according to road usage and infrastructure safety and road users who operate intuitively according to the road design.
Technology and road features will also help to ensure compliance with road rules and reduce the risk of a crash.
Post-crash care will help reduce the risk of death and serious injury.
Any single one of these elements will not necessarily be effective unless every element operates together to keep people safe.
All parts of the road system must be strengthened in combination to multiply the protective effects and if one part fails, the others will still protect people.
For example vehicle safety technology cannot save lives if design conditions are exceeded by the impact speed.
Vulnerable road users have a much higher high risk of death if they are impacted at speeds above 30 km/h.
Federal, state and local governments will need to invest many billions of dollars over the next two decades to bring infrastructure up to an acceptable safety standard, yet it will not be possible to fund improvements to the entire network.
On some segments of rural highway speed limits will need to be reduced dramatically.
The average age of vehicles in Tasmania is about 13 years.
By 2050 there will be many vehicles that will not have effective safety technology and some will not be able to be upgraded, such as vintage and veteran vehicles.
There are practical measures to reduce the risk of trauma that have been applied by various jurisdictions.
In some, there has been a shift from blaming road users (eg attributing crash causes only to the 'fatal five') to system designers being held responsible for road safety.
Also, network planning has shifted from fixing problems at particular locations to a systematic approach for an entire corridor.
In 2019 Western Australia launched a plan to reduce the speed limit by just 10km/h on most roads with existing limits above 40km/h.
It is anticipated that the result will be up to 50 per cent fewer fatalities and serious injuries on WA roads by 2030.
The plan originally attracted fierce opposition but it is now proceeding with majority community support.
Lower speeds dramatically reduce the likelihood that a crash will occur as well as the severity of the injuries that result from crashes.
There are measures that road users themselves could take to reduce the risk of trauma to themselves and other road users: driving so that others survive.
In addition to observing the road rules, lowering vehicle speed to a level consistent with road design and conditions could dramatically reduce fatalities and serious injuries.
On rural highways where the posted speed limit is 100 or 110km/h with no median or run-off barrier and the road user limits their speed to 90km/h or less, the risk of trauma in the event of a crash is reduced by 40 to 70 per cent.
In people precincts, limiting speed to 30km/h or less will make pedestrians much safer and could reduce trauma by 20 per cent.
Rather than wait until the road network and speed limits become safer, and we own a vehicle with the latest safety technology, please drive so that others survive.
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