Road safety is an important part of the Australian Government’s plans. There have been over 190 000 deaths recorded on our roads since 1925 (when records were created). In the past forty years, there has been a steady decline in the number of fatalities and injuries, even though there have been large increases in population and road users. 

However, there is always more that can be done, ideally, we should have a road toll of zero, and that might only happen with fully automated vehicles, but we’re just not quite ready for that. Figuring out what the problems are is just as important as the solution, and in order to uncover these, there need to be funds set aside purely for investigation and discovery.

In 2019 the Office of Road Safety was established to centralise the strategies needed to reduce the rate even further, by having a national office it allows all parties to work together and find appropriate solutions.

Are environmental regulations, health and safety concerns or potential profit loss a concern right now?

 

The Road Safety Innovation Fund (RSIF) is a part of the Government’s commitments to road safety. The grants were awarded through an open competitive process and it was open for applications up until 18 May 2020. The aim of the RSIF was to provide $12 million in funding over a period of four years for research into road safety and the development of new technologies with the aim of helping to reduce the road toll in Australia.

Ideally, the RSIF plans to reduce fatalities and other injuries on Australian roads. It can do this by developing new technologies and planning how safety systems are deployed and taught to drivers. The fund allows for businesses and educational institutions to apply for a grant in their specific field of research.

On June 9, 2020, the first round of successful grant applications was released, and 13 projects were chosen out of a total of 104 applicants. These 13 projects will share in $2 million over the next four years and attempt to discover what needs to be done to reduce our road toll and increase driver awareness.

Many of the chosen projects include developing technology to protect our vulnerable road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists. The University of Newcastle is looking to the future with investigating how long an operator will stay focussed in an automated vehicle, with the aim of supporting regulation for the duration that a vehicle may run for. 

Having funds such as these available as it allows for the research and development of new and interesting ideas to further safeguard people on the roads. Without schemes such as this, we wouldn’t have many of the safety systems we currently know and perhaps many more people would be losing their lives on the roads.

In July 2020 there were 95 road deaths, which was much lower than the previous 5-year average (5.4% reduction), although some of this may have contributed to lower travelling due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The biggest drop in deaths was for pedestrians at -24%, however, there was an increase in cyclist deaths at +70%. Hopefully, this trend of overall deaths on the roads can continue and we are all much safer while using them.

Round Two for the RSIF is expected to open for applications late in 2020.

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