Inquiry into the Impact of Road Safety Behaviour on Vulnerable Road Users

01 May 2024

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It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the final report that we have tabled today on an inquiry undertaken by the Legislative Assembly Economy and Infrastructure Committee looking at the impact of road safety behaviours on vulnerable road users. The committee investigated how our road safety behaviours changed during and post the COVID pandemic and how these changes have impacted our most vulnerable road users. They included, for this inquiry, road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, children, older people, those who use mobility devices, horseriders, delivery drivers and roadside workers.

This inquiry started with the really concerning upward trend that we are seeing in serious injuries and fatalities across our state on our roads, and although these statistics raise serious alarm bells, they are not just numbers on a graph – these are lives. I know I speak for my fellow committee members when I express my dismay at the devastating number of lives that have been lost on our roads during and after the pandemic. Each of these lives lost has unjustifiably robbed a person of their potential.

They have left dreams unfilled and created a lasting impact on their family, their friends and their community. We also need to acknowledge that it is not just fatalities though, as there are countless others who have been seriously injured on our roads and that has impacted their lives and the loved ones around them, as they are changed forever. The inquiry did focus on vulnerable road users. In 2023 they made up 36 per cent of lives lost on Victorian roads and in 2022 almost half – incredible statistics there.

As chair, and on behalf of the committee, I would like to take this opportunity to thank and extend our heartfelt gratitude to those individuals who made submissions and courageously shared their personal stories, enriching our understanding as a committee about the human toll that is being caused by road accidents. I would also like to thank the myriad of road safety organisations, research institutions, government departments, councils, peak transport bodies, unions and organisations that represented vulnerable road users and made submissions and attended public hearings for our committee to hear. The evidence that you gave and your openness to us has been instrumental in shaping our deliberations and the recommendations.

We did hear during the inquiry that Victorians felt that drivers and their behaviours had become worse throughout COVID and since. Experts told us that it was hard to definitely say with quantifying data what effect the pandemic had on our road safety, but it was clear that Victorians felt that our roads had become unsafe because of the behaviour that was being demonstrated. We also learned that although the kilometres travelled through the pandemic was lower it did not really correlate, and the road toll did not fall as expected during that time. Building from this we also learned that the lives lost in the last two years is likely to be because of the changing in our road behaviours. The committee heard also about the worsening of behaviours, in particular that drivers are showing more aggression, they are distracted, they are impatient and they are engaging in risky behaviour. Some of that risky behaviour is intentionally running red lights, using a mobile device and, unfathomably, not wearing a seatbelt when driving.

We also learned that it is not really easy to change people’s behaviour by simply just educating and urging them to be more responsible. Awareness is absolutely important, but complementary to that we do need some approaches that look at enforcement, infrastructure that separates those vulnerable road users from motor vehicles and guidance to motorists to really slow down in areas where there are high volumes of particularly bike riders and pedestrians. We heard from a lot of school students and parents about school drop-off and pick-up times as well.

We have made some recommendations that address the four pillars of the safe system approach which Victoria and other jurisdictions have adopted. We need to do everything we can to work towards the Victorian road safety strategy goal of zero deaths by 2050. We have 56 recommendations, and we look forward to the government’s response. I would like to thank the committee secretariat and the committee members for their work on this as well.