“Don’t even get me started on this,” says Mark Webber when asked about Victoria’s road toll spike. It soon becomes clear that Australia’s approach to road safety has Webber more than exercised.
“I saw a European stat the other day where the UK is phenomenal in terms of fatalities per million people,” he says. He has a point too. The latest World Health Organisation figures from 2018 show that the UK suffers 31 road fatalities per million, whereas Australia’s figure is nearly double that at 56 per million. Consider that the Brits are driving on busier roads, in smaller cars and in far worse weather conditions and the issue is compounded.
2018 National Road Toll: fewer road deaths, but worrying trends continue
“I think it what would be great for us to do is to look at it. It’s not a state problem, it’s a federal, holistic view of how we can learn from other countries,” he says, slating Australia’s parochial take on road safety. “There’s always a way to improve and revenue isn’t always about saving people’s lives. Are there countries doing it better? Absolutely yes, so let’s pick up the phone.”
“If you hit a tree at 60km/h, you’re still going to be killed, so it’s not speed,” says Webber. “If you fall asleep,” he adds. “It’s a big country, there’s road kill, people go off road missing stuff. So there are lots of things other countries don’t have,” he says.
Still, it’s not all bad news for Australian drivers. Despite the regional spike in Victoria, Australia enjoyed a 4.1 percent decrease in road deaths between 2010 and 2016. By contrast, the UK’s toll over the same period fell by 2.4 percent. So Aussies aren’t doing great but policy is going in the right direction. Compare that to the USA, which has seen fatalities rise by 13.5 percent from 2010-2016 and it’s clear that the road safety message isn’t disastrous.
But, as Webber rightly points out, Australian legislators could clearly benefit from looking at what the leading road safety nations in the world (currently Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK) are doing.