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National Road Safety Week shines the spotlight on road tolling in Australia

Iconic buildings, trees and sites have turned yellow this week to mark the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by car crashes on Australian roads each year.

The trees on Fraser Avenue in Kings Park, along with more than 60 high-profile buildings including police headquarters, Optus Stadium and the Matagarup Bridge, were lit up for National Road Safety Week, which is taking place from March 15 to 22.

Camera iconPolice Minister Paul Papalia with State Traffic Commander Mike Bell and Highway Safety Board Chairman Iain Cameron. Credit: WA Highway Safety Commission

In the towns of Kimberley, Kununurra and Derby, well-known boabs turned yellow, as did Albany Town Square to the south.

Flanked by yellow kangaroo paws representing the 166 lives lost on WA’s roads in 2021, Police Minister Paul Papalia made a National Road Safety Week pledge to ‘drive so others survive’ and said called on all West Australians to do the same.

“National Road Safety Week is an important opportunity to stop and reflect on the many aspects of road safety and to focus on what we can do as individuals to drive so that we and others can survive,” Mr. Papalia said.

dead end, traffic sign, road
Camera iconWA’s road toll in 2021 was 166. Credit: Chef/Pixabay (chefkeem user)

Road Safety Commission figures show 52 people have died on WA’s roads as of May 20 this year – 17 in the metropolitan area and 35 on regional roads.

“I want people to realize that this road trauma is preventable, so let’s all make the pledge this week,” Mr Papalia said.

Australian government statistics show there were 1,138 road deaths across the country in the 12 months to the end of March, with WA’s crash death rate of 5.74 per 100,000 people beating the average national of 4.42.

Figures from the WA Insurance Commission show there were 3,022,345 vehicles registered in WA as of June 30, 2021, including 1,644,630 cars and 128,274 motorbikes.

It says around 30 accidents happen on our roads every day – and people are most likely to be injured on a Thursday afternoon between 3pm and 6pm.

Who is to blame?

Drivers are routinely blamed for serious crashes, but Melbourne-based traffic and road safety engineer Robert Morgan asks whether faulty signage and misleading road layouts have a role to play in fatal crashes.

Writing in the Journal of Road Safety (May 11, 2022), he reviews a fatal crash in rural Victoria in 2019 in which a lorry driver with a ‘spotless’ driving record for 40 years hit an SUV with a family of four at a crossroads. , killing two people.

The intersection of the fatal accident in country Victoria.
Camera iconThe intersection of the fatal accident in country Victoria. Credit: Provided

Morgan says the truck driver passed a warning sign that there was an upcoming intersection and, unfamiliar with the area, looked at his phone’s GPS, which sat on a ledge on the dash. edge, to see in which direction he should go.

By the time he looked up and saw that there was a Give Way sign at the intersection, it was too late.

“The tone of all the media reports reviewed was that this was a clear case of dangerous driving causing death,” Morgan writes.

“But was it?”

Morgan points out that the truck driver was not affected by alcohol or drugs, his approach speed was less than 70 km/h in an 80 km/h zone and he admitted to seeing the sign. intersection warning.

Road Safety Commission figures show 52 people have died on WA’s roads as of May 20 this year – 17 in the metropolitan area and 35 on regional roads.

However, Morgan points out that there was nothing in the intersection warning sign that implied a driver had to yield the right of way – something he describes as a “crucial point that obviously eluded police, prosecutors and to the judge”.

“Blame the driver is not just a widespread community opinion expressed via the media; it is inherent in all Australian road safety strategies,” writes Morgan, adding that the “critical causal factor” in an accident is often associated with physical features of the road that can lead to human error with devastating consequences.

The truck driver pleaded guilty to two charges of dangerous driving causing death and one of dangerous driving causing serious injury, and was jailed for two years and seven months in December 2021. It was reported that with time served , he would be eligible for parole in 2022.

The National Road Safety Strategy factsheet outlining Vision Zero and the Safe System states that Australian governments have committed to “a vision” of zero fatalities and serious injuries by 2050, outlining the approach as follows:

“It means creating a system where the designers and operators of the system, including engineers, planners, legislators, law enforcement agencies, trauma workers and others share responsibility with the users of the road for the design of a road system that does not allow human error to have a serious or fatal outcome.

Morgan argues that safe system principles need to be updated with “specific responsibilities replacing shared responsibility” and that accident prevention should be as important as reducing accident severity.

Writing about Victoria, he thinks many of the issues are relevant across Australia, saying countless intersections are “waiting to catch unsuspecting drivers, simply for lack of a dedicated program to identify all sites that have basic signage and road design traps and applying low-cost technical remedies”.

Road signs in WA

Main Roads WA said the signs here conform to the Australian Standard AS1742 series which, among other things, defines the basic design in terms of color and shape coding.

There were also specific signs for main roads which were only used in WA – and all had to comply with safety and visibility requirements.

“Main Roads Standards and Guidelines, as well as Austroads Guides and Australian Standards, are all used to ensure that the use of the sign and its location is appropriate,” a Main Roads spokesperson said, adding that the new panel designs underwent comprehension testing with a cross-section of users to ensure they were understood and easily recognized.

Road projects also went through a design process with reviews at various stages before being approved.

Local councils outside the metropolitan area could put up yellow diamond warning signs, but they had to conform to the current standard or specification for main roads.

The spokesman said all fatal crashes on public roads in WA had been investigated in a step-by-step process that took into account the possibility that road environmental factors had contributed to the cause and/or severity of the accident.

What are the WA pilots saying?

The RAC says it has no evidence of a widespread misunderstanding of traffic signs in WA, noting that motorists’ concern is more often about sign placement than sign content.

“An RAC survey from March 2022 showed that our members believe the driver is generally responsible for fatalities and serious injuries on the road,” said Will Golsby, RAC’s general manager of external relations.

“Asked about the main contributors to fatalities and serious injuries on WA’s roads, 85% of RAC members said driver behaviour, 79% driver error and 67% driver skill, while only 14% selected road design, of which traffic signs are a part.

parking shots

Almost one in five Australians have been hit and run in a parking lot – and more than one in three admit to having their car door slammed into another vehicle, with male drivers being the main culprits.

These disturbing statistics were revealed by dash cam maker Nextbase, which also found that 21% of drivers admitted to hitting a parked car while driving.

Embarrassingly, the 35-44 age bracket scored the highest, at 30% assertive.

Almost one in three Australians also said their car had been broken into.

Almost one in five Australians have been hit and run in a car park.
Camera iconAlmost one in five Australians have been hit and run in a car park. Credit: monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The figures follow Nextbase research revealing that one in 10 Australians said they had been involved in a car accident in the past 12 months, prompting Nextbase ambassador and supercar driver David Reynolds to remind people to be more patient and concentrate behind the wheel.

“No matter how fast you are when driving a car, you need to be fully focused all the time,” he said.

“Plan your trip and leave early to make sure you’re not rushed and think clearly when you’re on the road.

“While people might think a small dent in another car is minor, the cost and inconvenience of repairing it is significant.”

Nextbase says its dash cams are triggered by bumps and shakes to start recording, even in parking lots.

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