Vehicle safety technology is an effective measure to reduce road deaths and serious injuries and holds the potential to eliminate some of the key contributors to road trauma.
Improvements in vehicle safety (primarily crash avoidance and occupant protection measures) have been effective in reducing deaths. These include safety equipment as well as vehicle safety technology.
Older vehicles without newer safety features are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes and provide less protection. Analysis by Australasian New Car Assessment Program showed vehicles built before 2001 made up 20 per cent of the fleet but featured in 36 per cent of fatal crashes. Newer vehicles built between 2012 and 2017 made up just over 30 per cent of the fleet, yet were involved in only 13 per cent of fatal crashes.
National Road Safety Strategy priority areas for ADRs:
Australian Design Rules
Australian Design Rules (ADRs) are the national regulatory standards for safety, anti-theft and environmental performance of road vehicles when first supplied to the Australian market. The Commonwealth mandates around 75 ADRs, most of which are aligned with United Nations Regulations.
The National Road Safety Strategy identifies priority areas for ADR development to progress the uptake of new vehicle safety features and technologies in Australia and result in a safer vehicle fleet.
Progressing the identified priority ADRs will contribute to a safer vehicle fleet, resulting in new cars sold in Australia meeting new minimum safety standards. For example, more vehicles with lane keep assist should lead to the reduction of run-off-road and head-on crashes, both of which are major contributor to deaths and serious and injuries on regional and remote roads.
The time to introduce new ADRs has decreased substantially in recent years. Since 2011, it takes an average of around 1.6 years to sign ADRs into law, compared with 4.5 years under the previous National Road Safety Strategy 2001-2010.
Australasian New Car Assessment Program
ANCAP is complementary to regulation. The ADRs ensure all vehicles meet a minimum regulatory standard. ANCAP ratings encourage vehicle brands to introduce the latest vehicle safety technology as soon as it becomes available.
In addition to mandating vehicle safety technology through ADRs, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating system, through consumer driven choice, encourages vehicle brands to include the latest vehicle safety technology as soon as the technology becomes available or lose competitive advantage to other brands.
- 95 per cent of new light vehicles sold in 2019 had an ANCAP safety rating and 91 per cent of vehicles sold had the maximum 5-star rating.
- The value of ANCAP in enhancing the safety of the Australasian vehicle fleet is conservatively estimated at $104.7 million per annum.
Building on success
The introduction of vehicle safety features, both through mandatory regulation and through consumer-led approaches, has delivered significant road safety outcomes in the past.
- Seatbelts (compulsory wearing required from 1971) and airbags (regulated in ADRs in the 1990s), together with improvements to the overall crashworthiness of vehicles to protect vehicle occupants resulted in significant reductions in road trauma.
- Newer technologies like Electronic Stability Control, Motorcycle Antilock Braking Systems (ABS) and improvements to heavy vehicle braking and stability have seen marked improvements. Increasingly, vehicle technology developments that are focused on crash avoidance, such as lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection are widely available in the new vehicle market.
- ADRs have progressed for Autonomous Emergency Braking for both heavy and light vehicles through the National Road Safety Action Plan 2018-2020. Mandating this technology in new vehicles will result in improved safety for road users.
Continuing to increase the presence of new vehicle safety technologies will provide significant road safety benefits.
Vehicle safety and Infrastructure planning and investment – connected priorities
Improvements in vehicle safety, particularly through the use of technology, is interconnected with road design.
New vehicle technologies often rely on compatibility with the road network. For example, adding an edge line marking may historically have had a 5-10 per cent effect on reducing crashes, but is likely to have considerably greater benefit for a vehicle equipped with lane departure warning or lane keep assist technology.
There are also opportunities to adapt other road design and maintenance processes to take account of emerging technology, with a view to improving safety of existing vehicles on our roads and preparing for a future with highly automated vehicles. Over the longer term, connected and automated vehicles and cooperative intelligent transport systems have the potential to substantially improve road safety outcomes through avoided deaths and injuries due to human error.
 Economic Connections Report on ANCAP’s Role to Reduce Road Trauma (February 2018).