Budgeting for safety

Balancing the books took a backseat as the federal government staged a welcome funding boost for better, safer roads.

The most recent federal Budget unveiled an extra $7.5 billion to be spent on building roads over the next four years. This is on top of the 10-year, $100 billion infrastructure pipeline already announced as part of the 2018-19 budget.

Life-saving road safety investment

Road trauma costs the Australian economy $30 billion a year, but the human cost in in deaths, serious injuries and lasting disabilities is immeasurable . The current National Road Safety Strategy, which runs out at the end of this year, has failed. No state is on track to achieve its targets to reduce road deaths and serious injuries by 30 per cent.

The Budget’s brand new $2 billion Road Safety Program is estimated to buy 3,000 kilometres of life-saving road improvements and support the creation of thousands of jobs right across the country.

These small-scale projects will include upgrades such as wire rope safety barriers that can reduce accidents caused by vehicles running off the road or swerving into the wrong lane. They could also include rumble strips to alert drivers and riders that they are moving out of their lane, audio-tactile line marking, reflective signage, new shoulder sealing, and median treatments to prevent head-on collisions.

The Budget’s commitment to transport projects is set to help to not only protect Australian jobs but importantly, protect lives on the nation’s roads.

Use it or lose it

The Government wants the states and territories to identify quick, ‘shovel-ready’ projects for the road safety funding, which will be provided on a “use-it-or-lose-it” basis. This means it will hold states and territories lagging behind to account and re-allocate funding to those that can spend it on time, and demonstrate they are serious about their safety responsibilities.

With the funds to be delivered in three, six-month tranches, the race is now on for state and territory governments to roll out their road safety projects as quickly and effectively as possible.

Critically, the states and territories will be required to provide road safety data as a key condition of receiving this funding. This means the federal and state governments will be able to monitor the success of road safety policies in ‘real time’ and make changes when necessary.

What does this mean for the next National Road Safety Strategy? Will some competitive tension between states help drive down our road toll? There are some very good questions for the months that follow.

All in all, Australian motorists can be pleased with what Budget 2020 promises for the quality and safety of our roads.

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