Four members of our Road Safety team including Haris Zia, Steve Ford, Bridget Southey-Jensen and Paul Durdin attended and presented five abstracts at this year’s Australasian Road Safety Conference held at the ICC in Sydney, 3-5 October 2018.
This year’s conference proved very interesting and highlighted that while we have made some headway there is still a long way to go towards achieving our road safety goals. Here are some of their observations from the conference:
With a theme of ‘Towards Zero: Making it Happen’ discussion centered around the effectiveness of Australia’s National Road Safety Strategy in achieving zero fatalities by 2050. Road safety expert Dr Jeremy Woolley told the conference that most politicians and the public did not believe this was achievable leading to a ‘crisis of complacency’ and failure of the government to commit to this goal. While the road toll across New Zealand and Australia is lower than it was 30 years ago, Professor Woolley forecast that 12000 people would be killed and 360 000 will be injured over the next decade costing the country $300 billion based on the current system. He called for co-ordinated action by government to combat the road toll and move towards zero fatalities. Ben Carlon the Director for NSW’s Centre for Road Safety called for a change to treat road trauma as a public health epidemic in much the same way as the government had tackled eradicating measles – where “mass action is required to treat a network to save lives”.
A keynote speaker at the conference, the Hon Bella Dinh-Zarr is a board member of the US National Transportation Safety Board. She spoke about how road trauma incidents are handled by the board in the US. One of the areas we can perhaps learn from the NTSB, is around their role with the media. When the NTSB is involved in a crash, they are the ones who liaise with the media. This means that road safety practitioners are the ones controlling the narrative of a situation to the media, not the police. As a result, the messaging in the media can reinforces a safe system approach and steer away from the historic victim blaming approach generally reported.
Another theme of the conference focused on new safety trends in cars. Partially automated driving systems are being rolled out as improvements but in reality aren’t so well-tuned for real world usability. For instance, some cars ‘active distance assist’ slows the cars to uncomfortably low speeds on bends or ‘lane helping’ cause the car to stray if lane markers are faded. This new technology is in its infancy and assuming it to be an improvement to driver safety by manufacturers, without going through a robust testing and approval process, is a flaw that needs to be addressed.
Another presentation at the conference focused on public transport policy and how it affects road safety. Modal shift is a new topic in road safety – getting people away from cars in to buses or trains gets more cars off the road.
Our team enjoyed presenting and learning about the latest developments at this year's ARSC. We look forward to attending again next year.
For more information about our five presentations, visit our previous news item.