The federal government is being urged to do more to reduce the number of road crashes in Australia after a new report found they are costing the economy nearly $30 billion a year.
The Australian Automobile Association says while the number of people killed on our roads has dropped by a quarter since 2006, the annual cost of road trauma has not fallen by anywhere near as much.
A report commissioned by the AAA estimates the cost of road trauma was $29.7 billion in 2015. In 2009 the cost of road trauma was estimated by the Australian government to be $27 billion. In today’s dollars that’s equivalent to around $35 billion.
AAA chief executive Michael Bradley says the report’s findings suggest that the federal government’s 2011 National Road Safety Strategy, which aims to reduce annual road deaths and serious injuries by at least 30 per cent by 2020, is doomed to fail.
He wants the federal government to re-establish the National Office for Road Safety, which was shut down 15 years ago, to help improve driver education and research about crashes including the roles played by drug driving and mobile phone use.
Mr Bradley also argues the billions of dollars the federal government spends on road infrastructure projects each year should be linked to specific safety targets.
“The government can choose not to act, but choosing not to not only kills a lot of Australians but it costs billions of dollars every year,” he told AAP on Monday.
“Even though fewer people are dying, more are getting injured probably because crashes are getting more survivable thanks to car technologies and airbags so when you have a crash what used to kill you will now just disable you or maim you.
“The cost of that disability care and the income support for carers, that’s a huge part of this.”
The report, prepared by Economic Connections, found while road fatalities dropped by a quarter to 1205 between 2006 and 2015, the number of people needing to be hospitalised rose by nearly the same amount and pushed up overall costs in the process.
The number of road crashes also rose four per cent to 679,359.
It estimates the direct cost to government for just one year’s worth of road trauma is about $3.7 billion, which covers expenses relating to healthcare, emergency services, forgone future tax revenue and income support for the people injured or killed.
In terms of the $30 billion overall cost of road trauma to the economy, fatalities, health and wellbeing are make up the biggest share of the pie at more than $9 billion, followed by vehicle damage at $4.3 billion and $2 billion for disability care.
Mr Bradley said the federal government should be playing a leadership role for the states when it comes to reducing road trauma by co-ordinating the collection of standardised data on crashes so better research can be done to help reduce the road toll.