The national COVID-19 lockdown from March to August did not proportionally reduce road deaths, according to new research.
Despite fewer people using the roads, the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) found there was an increase in cyclist road deaths, and an increase in people killed on the roads in Queensland.
While there was up to 30% less road use during the national lockdown, there was only a 10% reduction in fatal crashes, and an 8% reduction in road fatalities nationwide.
The research was undertaken by ARRB for the Australia and New Zealand Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) – the peak industry advisory body for driverless vehicle activities in Australasia.
ARRB chief executive officer Michael Caltabiano said the research showed that lower traffic volumes alone do not lead to improved road safety outcomes.
In fact, Mr Caltabiano said, there were factors at play that had proportionally made the travelling experience inherently more dangerous.
“Australia needs to be more proactive when it comes to identifying trends in fatal and serious crashes. We simply cannot be using lag indicators, effectively waiting for people to die to understand higher risks.”
“States are focused on their own statistics, but ARRB is looking at the national perspective and trends, which have revealed three key findings:
- The increase in deaths in Queensland was out of step with the rest of Australia
- There was an increase in cycling fatalities
- Overall, despite up to 30% less road use, deaths from road crashes across Australia only decreased by 8% during the travel restrictions from March to August.
ADVI executive director Rita Excell said one of the keys to improving these alarming statistics could be the wider uptake of vehicle safety technologies currently available like autonomous emergency braking and lane assist, as well as new, emerging technologies.
“Vehicle safety technologies, including those available on our vehicles today and the emerging technologies being developed by ADVI partners, could eliminate up to 90% of crashes anytime and anywhere,” Ms Excell said.
“We want to see a greater focus on vehicle safety features to become standard on vehicles sold in Australia, to keep all Australians safe on our roads.”