Fact sheet: Responses to the inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy 2021-20 and governance review

2018 Inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-20

With the support of the then Transport and Infrastructure Council, the Australian Government initiated an independent Inquiry into the effectiveness of the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-20 in September 2017.

The Terms of Reference called on the Inquiry to identify key factors involved in road crash death and injury trends; review the effectiveness of the Strategy and supporting Action Plan; identify issues and priorities for consideration in the development of a post-2020 Strategy and 2018-20 Action Plan; and advise on arrangements for the management of road safety and the Strategy.

The Inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy was completed in September 2018. The report made 12 key recommendations to governments, to improve road safety outcomes in Australia.

Governments took a number of actions in response to the 2018 Inquiry. Several of the recommendations required a coordinated effort across governments, and the then Transport and Infrastructure Council established a working group to progress these. Ministers made a number of specific comments in August 2019. These included:

  • All investments in road infrastructure planning, design and construction will require application of Safe System principles and inclusion of safety treatments that align with these principles
  • The existing road network will be improved through the prioritisation of mass action programs to deliver treatments that are proven to reduce the impact of road trauma
  • The Commonwealth will streamline the process for legislative and regulatory changes to vehicle safety standards to improve the uptake of new safety technology in the Australian new vehicle fleet, and will endeavour to align Australian regulations with the proposed European regulatory package to commence within a similar timeframe
  • All jurisdictions will continue to review our road safety capacity, supported by the Australian Government’s Office of Road Safety and under the guidance of the Transport and Infrastructure Senior Officials’ Committee, to support the delivery of the next National Road Safety Strategy and position Australia to achieve the Vision Zero target by 2050
  • All jurisdictions will work with local governments to improve engagement and resourcing for road safety.

In response to one specific recommendation of the 2018 Inquiry, Commonwealth, state and territory governments  jointly conducted a review of national road safety governance arrangements (see below).

In November 2019, Transport Ministers agreed to publication of a final response and implementation arrangements for the 2018 Inquiry. At that time a number of recommendations had been actioned, including:

  • ensuring a Cabinet Minister has responsibility for road safety
  • completing the Review of National Road Safety Governance Arrangements
  • establishing the Office of Road Safety
  • the Australian Government providing funding for the Road Safety Innovation Fund, and the Road Safety Awareness and Enablers Fund.

Several of the 2018 Inquiry recommendations are addressed in the new National Road Safety Strategy 2021-30 (Strategy).

Minimum $3 billion a year road safety fund: Through the National Partnership Agreement on Land Transport Infrastructure Projects, ongoing arrangements have been put in place to ensure that all investments in road infrastructure planning, design and construction will have as an objective: infrastructure that is safer, by having regard for Safe System principles and treatments, and aligns with the new Strategy.

The Australian Government is investing $110 billion over 10 years from 2021-22 in land transport infrastructure across Australia through its rolling infrastructure pipeline. From 2021/22 - 2024/25, over $25 billion of this will be spent on road infrastructure programs and projects targeted or linked to road safety. Investment by state and territory governments will further contribute to road safety outcomes.

Vision Zero target for 2050: The new Strategy is designed to support the long-term goal of zero deaths and zero serious injuries by 2050. This follows and builds on the commitment by Transport and Infrastructure Ministers in August 2019 to a target of zero fatalities, and their commitment in November 2019 to the framework for the new Strategy positioning Australia to achieve the Vision Zero target by 2050. The new Strategy also sets 2030 targets for: zero deaths of children 7-years and under; zero deaths in city CBD areas; and zero deaths on all national highways and on high-speed roads covering 80 per cent of travel across the network.

Key performance indicators that measure and report how harm can be eliminated in the system: The new Strategy adopts an enhanced performance management and reporting system, supported by the National Road Safety Data Hub. Safety Performance Indicators will show the extent to which the road transport system is transformed to be safer overall. Close monitoring of these indicators and annual publication of the results will ensure governments are implementing the measures that will make a difference, and can adjust plans in response to changes in priority and emerging issues based on results and evidence.

Rapid deployment and accelerated uptake of proven vehicle safety technologies and innovation: Following the commitment of the then Transport and Infrastructure Council to streamline regulatory processes, the Australian Government is working to identify opportunities to maximise the efficiency of the Regulation Impact Statement process while observing Commonwealth regulatory assessment requirements.

Accelerated adoption of speed management initiatives: The new Strategy is focused on three main themes: Safe Roads, Safe Vehicles and Safe Road Use. Following the Ministers’ decision on the framework for the Strategy in November 2019, speed management is no longer treated separately and has been embedded within all three themes. The adoption of best practice speed management initiatives will be informed by Movement and Place approach for road planning. The new Strategy also highlights the importance of best practice coordinated enforcement of speed limits and other key behavioural issues.

Road safety focused infrastructure, Safe System and mobility partnerships with state, territory and local governments: Following the then Transport and Infrastructure Council commitment in August 2019, the new Strategy ensures that infrastructure funding at all levels is linked to measurable improvements in road safety. The National Road Safety Action Plan will outline more specifically how this will be assessed, including through pre- and post-treatment risk ratings.

Australian Government infrastructure funding is now linked to the inclusion of Safe System assessment and infrastructure treatments specific to the risks present. Transparent reporting and monitoring against project delivery will be enabled by the National Road Safety Data Hub.

The Australian Government has established a $3 billion road safety program, providing for the fast roll out of lifesaving road safety treatments on rural and regional roads and greater protection for vulnerable road users, like cyclists and pedestrians, in urban areas. The provision of data to enable assessment of safety benefits is a requirement of funding under the new program.

Road safety as a genuine part of business as usual: In August 2019 the then Transport and Infrastructure Council decided to make road safety a standing item for each of its meetings, recognising that responsibility for road safety rests across all levels of governments. The Parliament of Australia also established a Joint Select Committee on Road Safety in August 2019, to inquire into and report on steps that can be taken to reduce road crash rates. The Joint Select Committee tabled its report on 30 October 2020 and one of its recommendations was the establishment of a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Road Safety. The Joint Select Committee was re-established in March 2021, building on earlier work and adopting an expanded terms of reference.

The new Strategy adopts a social model approach to road safety, recognising the need for action and changed approaches beyond government road agencies. The social model means reaching beyond the traditional transport sector to achieve cultural change, through ongoing engagement with different sectors, to identify fruitful areas for collaboration.

Under the new Strategy, Cabinet Ministers are responsible for reaching across portfolios so that governments take a holistic approach to achieving better road safety outcomes.

2019 Review of National Road Safety Governance Arrangements

The 2018 Inquiry findings recognised that responsibility for improving road safety is shared among multiple agencies across all levels of government in Australia. Coordination across and within the Commonwealth, state, territory and local governments is critical for improving governance arrangements.

The Review of the National Road Safety Governance Arrangements was the first comprehensive mapping of the Australian road safety ecosystem.  The report was endorsed for publication by the then Transport and Infrastructure Council in August 2019, providing findings on better governance and administrative arrangements, expected to assist in improving road safety performance.

The Review highlighted the need for strong national leadership and coordination, better connections across levels of government, mainstreaming of the Safe System approach, and the need to engage all levels of government and stakeholders to successfully drive outcomes.

The report included eight key findings, some of which have been delivered, and many are embedded through the new Strategy. Some have underlying complexities and may take some time to finalise.

Australian Government leadership, coordination and advocacy; and cross-jurisdictional decision making: The Office of Road Safety was established on 1 July 2019 to provide a national coordination and leadership role in driving efforts to reduce road trauma. It will work with states, territories and the Australian Local Government Association to implement the new Strategy, and is responsible for progress reporting on the fatality and serious injury reduction targets and safety performance indicators.

Infrastructure and Transport Ministers (formerly the Transport and Infrastructure Council) are the national decision-making authorities for cooperative national efforts to reduce road trauma through the new Strategy and the first National Road Safety Action Plan.

The new Strategy highlights the need for governments to overcome the implementation failure of the past decade and ensure results through strengthened institutional management.

Mainstreaming the Safe System approach at all levels: Following the then Transport and Infrastructure Council commitment in August 2019, the new Strategy ensures that infrastructure funding at all levels is linked to measurable improvements in road safety.

Better integration of road safety expertise into government decision-making across all Safe System areas: Linking all infrastructure funding to road safety improvement is a critical first step in this area, and there is further work to extend this integration across all Safe System areas. The new Strategy recognises the need to build capacity and capability, not just in government agencies but all system designers and operators, including engineers, planners, lawmakers, enforcement agencies, post-crash trauma care workers and others. This will be implemented through measures such as formal knowledge sharing arrangements and wide availability of best practice training, including for decision makers on how to manage for results. 

Road infrastructure funding conditional on inclusion of Safe System treatments: The National Partnership Agreement on Land Transport Infrastructure Projects requires all investments in transport infrastructure to have regard to Safe System design principles, and the new Strategy commits to infrastructure funding at all levels being linked to measurable improvements in road safety. The Action Plan will provide further detail on how safety improvement will be assessed.

Local government engagement and resourcing: The new Strategy puts a strong emphasis on ensuring local government has the capacity to deliver sustained road safety outcomes, and the Action Plan will provide further detail about support for local governments to undertake road safety risk assessment of their networks in order to better direct their available resources to achieve trauma reduction.

Improving uptake of new safety technology in new vehicles: Following the commitment at the then Transport and Infrastructure Council to streamline regulatory processes, the Australian Government is working to identify opportunities to maximise the efficiency of the Regulation Impact Statement process while observing Commonwealth regulatory assessment requirements.

Better performance information and a national framework for monitoring and evaluation: The new Strategy adopts an enhanced governance framework and performance management and reporting system. A key element is the focus on safety performance indicators to show the extent to which we have transformed the road transport system to be safer overall.

Explore scope for national no-blame investigation of heavy vehicle crashes: The Australian Government supported this proposal in principle as part of its response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into National Transport Regulatory Reform, which made a similar recommendation. The Government recognises further work is needed to identify the benefit and scope of any potential expansion of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s responsibilities to include no-blame investigations into heavy vehicle crashes.