Casey MP Aaron Violi throws support behind the Data Saves Lives campaign

The Data Saves Lives campaign is calling for specific road rating data to be made publically available. Picture: ON FILE

By Callum Ludwig

A campaign from the Australian Automotive Association (AAA), of which the RACV is a constituent club, is calling for more transparent data on road safety and quality nationwide.

The Data Saves Lives campaign is calling on the Federal government to compel state and territory governments to make the ratings of more than 450,000km of roads, assessed to the globally recognised standards of the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP), publicly available.

AAA Managing Director Michael Bradley said until Australia gets serious about understanding the crashes occurring today, we have no credible plan to prevent the crashes of tomorrow.

“The Commonwealth needs to compel state and territory governments to provide data held relating to road quality, crash causation, and law enforcement, as a condition of the $10 billion in annual road funding it provides,” he said.

“Data reporting is the first step to preventing crashes and saving lives, as it will generate the evidence on which future transport policy can be based.”

According to data from the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics’s Australia Road Deaths Database (ARDD), Victoria has seen a 6.7 per cent increase in road deaths in the year to September 2023 with 269 deaths.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)’s National Hospital Morbidity Database recorded a steady rise in annual hospitalisations due to road crashes in Australia from 2012 until 2019 before a dip in 2020, likely due to Covid-related travel restrictions. The latest data for 2021 saw incidents rise back up to almost pre-Covid levels, but it remains to be seen what the stats say for 2022 and 2023 where travel was unrestricted all year nationwide.

As part of the campaign, all Federal members were contacted to offer their support with Casey MP Aaron Violi jumping on board.

Mr Violi said he is a big believer in data because if you don’t understand and know where the problem areas are, that’s the first step you need to go and understand before you look to fix an issue.

“I think it’s crucial, there’s two key elements to making it public and available and one is awareness; if people know that an intersection in their community is statistically one of the most dangerous in the country, you would hope it can play a little bit of role in mitigating their behaviour and potentially making them more cautious around that intersection,” he said.

“Equally importantly, it allows communities to understand where those fatalities and injuries are happening and then advocate to myself, to state MPs, to local councils and start campaigns to get roads improved and potentially also dispel myths,”

“Nothing comes to mind but potentially people might think a road is quite dangerous but it actually hasn’t had any fatalities or accidents, so it’s not as big of a priority as we think it might be.”

The Australian Government is working with states and territories on an Intergovernmental Road Safety Data Sharing Agreement as part of the National Road Safety Action Plan 2023-25.

A government spokesperson said national road safety data harmonisation is a focus.

“The Australian Government is working alongside states and territories to finalise the Intergovernmental Road Safety Data Sharing Agreement, which will be signed off at the end of the year,” they said.

“The Agreement will enable the collection, storage, use and sharing of road safety data sets by the already established National Road Safety Data Hub.”

The National Road Safety Action Plan is agreed to by all state and territories, and local governments through the Australian Local Government Association, while the Federal government is also negotiating the next five-year National Partnership Agreement on Land Transport Infrastructure Projects, which will come into effect in July 2024.

Mr Violi said he thinks having a nationally consistent standard is crucial, particularly at the federal level where they’re making decisions across the country to allocate funding.

“If there’s different ratings between states then you get skewed data and you’re not working on the same information,” he said.

“Having a report that only goes to the minister or the government of the day doesn’t engender confidence within the community, so whatever they develop, my strong belief is it needs to be transparent and publicly available to all communities,”

“I hope they can come together and implement this, this should be above politics, and it’s not about the parties, it’s about delivering better results for our communities and accurately understanding and mapping where these incidents are coming out.”

At the time of writing 45 per cent of MPs support the campaign, mostly Liberal and Independent MPs.