Lower fatalities as Australia proves a successful road safety model

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Laos remains a low-income country for now and it does not have enough budget resources to fund a modern road safety programme.

However, this country may have chance to cut the annual death toll of 1,000 people by setting up specific action plans to raise public awareness on driving in safer ways.

Creating specific action plans can be sustainable methods for helping the Lao government to achieve improved road safety outcomes.

It is recognised that constructing a comprehensive road safety system as in developed countries requires funding.

Laos may not have enough resources to manage road safety campaign programmes in the face of strong demand for limited funds for health and education sector development.

At first, establishment of specific action plans is necessary for Laos to ensure sustainable road safety.

In Laos, the number of road accidents is increasing year by year, damaging national economic development.

Today, there are not many developed countries in the world that have been able to reduce the figures of road accident year by year.

One example is Australia, a country has also become a model country in the world in terms of road safety.

However, before becoming a leading country for low rates of road accidents, Australia has spent more than 50 years working on road safety campaigns.

The country has produced a specific road safety action plan and follows this road map so the country achieves the targets set.

In Australia, there is not any police post near traffic light, but nobody breaks the traffic regulation.

How so? This Vientiane Times reporter asked the Chief Inspector of the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, New South Wales (NSW), Australia, Mr Phillip Brooks, about ways to encourage drivers to follow the rules, when attending a recent road safety programme in Australia.

Q: As police usually are working in office every day, how do they know if any drivers break rules?

A: Even if we are not standing along the road as police in some countries do, we know what drivers and pedestrians are doing from the cameras that are now installed at all traffic lights.

Q: How do you respond to an offence?

A: If we find any drivers break the rules, firstly, we will send email with the cost of fine to them. The driver is also advised to come to the police office to pay the fine. A warning email will be sent a second time if the driver does not come to the office at scheduled time.
If these two emails are still ignored by the driver, police will go to their house to encourage them to pay the fine. This driver may be also be called on to pay double the amount of the original fine. For transparency, all charges are paid at police stations instead of paying to the officer at the roadside.

Q: How do you promote road safety?

A: The road safety campaign will be undertaken continuously to make sure that all people understand the traffic regulations. The continuous campaign has been promoted in schools, universities and communities.

The campaign is expected to reduce road fatalities by at least 30 percent from 2011 levels by 2021. The state government is committed to making NSW roads the safest in Australia.

While NSW has seen significant improvements in the level of road trauma over time, road crashes are still a leading cause of death for people under 44 years of age, costing the community around AU$5.4 billion in 2011.

Each year there are around 42,000 recorded road crashes in NSW, with more than 26,000 people injuries.

To reduce road fatalities by at least 30 percent, the government is putting more money into roads and working with local government to deliver road safety improvements.

In addition, improving safety of road travel is a factor in reliability. About 90 percent of peak travel on key road routes is on time.

Yet congestion across metropolitan Sydney is estimated to already cost up to AU$5 billion per annum, and will rise to AU$8 billion by 2021 if nothing is done.

To ensure consistency of journey times on key roads continues to improve, NSW is working to make better use of existing road infrastructure, build extra road capacity and encourage commuters to use public transport and to undertake of-peak travel more often.

This can enable business and the community to move around with greater ease, reducing travel times, boosting productivity and reducing business costs.