Lofty Ideals, Policy Potholes & Local Licences
“Tough on crime”, “the War on Drugs”, and now….. “Towards Zero”: the latest rhetoric to metamorphosis into policy. So commendable is this policy principle, we invite you with us, to look behind the rhetoric, examine the details, and the impact these will have on day-to-day lives of drivers.
Statistics from the NSW Centre for Road Safety
In order to achieve the goal of zero road fatality and trauma by 2056, the period of time 2011- 2056, has been divided into smaller periods of time (e.g. 2011 – 2021), with legislative reform and measurable goals, to be rolled out in each.
It seems reasonable that such lofty policy ambitions require long timeframes, but how about this detail: specific timeframes are mandated for objectives of key significance – a road fatality reduction of 30% to be calculated from 2011 and achieved by 2021; with targeted outcomes to be reviewed every five years, and goals every 10 years; but the ultimate ‘zero’ target’ itself has not been deemed attainable until 2056. The Road Safety Plan 2021 – linked to overall NSW Government road and transport policy and planning that cumulatively comprise the policy plans for the future 40 years of NSW transport infrastructure – makes specific reciprocal reference to the Future Transport Strategy 2056 . The NSW Government states this specific link ‘aligns the Towards Zero vision’ – and the rhetorical stance of both the Road Safety and Future Transport Plans is that they facilitate the move ‘towards a zero trauma network’ – but this also effectively serves to defer any assessment of the ultimate success of a road and transport system with zero fatality and trauma for 37 years, by which time the current government responsible for the plan will be just a distant memory.
The Plan asserts a rhetorical position of evidenced based rigour that looks at policies pursued around the world. The use of a laudable but lofty central objective has been discussed, but the Plan has other flaws that have been cause for criticism. The Plan states how it:
brings together everything we know that is proven to prevent and reduce the impact of crashes and reflects… internationally recognised approach to improving road safety…developed based on evidence and expert advice from across Australia and countries with the safest roads in the world.
Despite such rhetoric, the Plan does not include using the point-to-point speed camera technology, currently in place across NSW, but at present only used to monitor heavy vehicles. The decision to start using these cameras to also monitor car speeds could be implemented with a ‘flick of the switch’. The decision not to means NSW is now the only State not to use this technology to monitor cars for speeding offences as well as heavy vehicles. Dr John Crozier, chair of the National Trauma Committee of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons, has been lobbying for years to have these cameras used for cars, arguing this “flick of a switch” would save lives and reduce injuries on NSW roads.
The Road Safety Plan 2021 itself notes country people represent “a third of the NSW population, who consistently account for more than two thirds of deaths on our roads”. Dr Crozier, has accused government at the national level of complacency on road safety, a worsening situation since the Federal Office of Road Safety was abolished in 1999. Dr Crozier advocates that harmonised road safety legislation should be introduced by all the states, but singled out the NSW government, for what he calls a “significant failure…of political will” for failing to apply its existing point-to-point speed cameras to all NSW road users.
Another challenge to the Government’s rhetoric and claims the Plan is evidence based and based on global ‘best practice’, accompanied by the rhetorical statement that this Plan will ‘provide high quality and enhanced fatal and serious injury crash data and analysis’ to be available to the public and ‘road safety delivery partners’ in order to implement a robust research program – is that such assertions are negagated by a serious issue, noted in an article from the Sydney Morning Herald, that the data provided by the NSW Centre for Road Safety itself highlights how half of serious injuries on NSW roads are not recorded in official trauma statistics because ‘police and hospital records cannot be matched’. Of the11,557 people injured seriously on roads in NSW over the 12 months to March 2018, 5702 are excluded from the official count because they could not be matched to a police report.
Whatever the shortfalls in terms of policy, methods, and best practice that arise from the Plan implemented, many of the legal changes advocated by the Plan have now entered into force to become NSW law.
These legal goals were grouped together as a plan priority area titled: Using the roads safely. Objectives sought were high visibility policing, speed camera use, alcohol interlock devices, and ongoing enforcement programs testing for alcohol and drugs. These plans entailed legislative measures, alongside administrative changes to powers and processes for both the NSW judiciary and the NSW Police.
In part 3, the Local Court Lawyers’ Peter Randall explores more of the detail, as the government strives to achieve its goal by 2056.
“The NSW State Infrastructure Strategy 2018-2038”, Department of Premier and Cabinet, March 2018, <https://www.nsw.gov.au/improving-nsw/projects-and-initiatives/nsw-state-infrastructure-strategy/>; “NSW Long-Term Transport Master Plan”, Transport NSW, December 2102; <https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/media/documents/2017/nsw-transport-masterplan-final.pdf> ; “NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan: Annual Update 2014”, Transport NSW, 2104, <https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/media/documents/2017/long-term-transport-master-plan-annual-update-2014.pdf>; “Future Transport Strategy 2056”, Transport NSW, March 2018.
Julie Power & James Robertson, “Safety experts say a flick of a switch would save lives on NSW roads” Sydney Morning Herald, February 10 2018, <https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/safety-experts-say-a-flick-of-a-switch-would-save-lives-on-nsw-roads-20180209-p4yztb.html>
Nicole Hasham, “Black spot program ‘fatally flawed and federal governments complacent’ on road safety: expert”, Sydney Morning Herald, January 4 2018, <https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/black-spot-program-fatally-flawed-and-federal-governments-complacent-on-road-safety-expert-20180104-h0dd5z.html>.
Nigel Gladstone, “Half of all serious injuries on the road not recorded”, Sydney Morning Herald, October 28 2018, <https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/half-of-all-serious-injuries-on-the-road-not-recorded-20180927-p506dz.html>