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Holding to account on road safety

We want to hold Tasmanian politicians to account on road safety. As far as we're concerned, it must be a priority and a politics-free zone.

In the lead up to the House of Assembly and Legislative Council elections, politicians and political parties will outline what their priorities are. As far as we and our 200,000 members are concerned, road safety must be a priority and a politics-free zone.

If ever there was a time for support for one position across the political spectrum - it is now. Consider the evidence: Tasmania has the worst road safety record of any state - 6.6 deaths per 100,000 population compared with the best-performing state, Victoria with 3.17. If we can match Victoria, we could save 19 lives a year and reduce the number of serious injuries.

If we could match the world's best - Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands, Britain, Ireland, Denmark, for example - even more lives could be saved. We need to be the best.

Last year when our roads were almost empty because of the pandemic, we should have seen a reduction in road trauma, as most other states did. Sadly, the opposite was the case - 36 people died (seven more than in 2019) and 284 were injured. And the dial has hardly moved in the past decade.

That means that if Tasmania - and Tasmanians - do not do things differently, on current trends 175 Tasmanians will die and 1500 will be seriously injured in the next five years.

This will mean the target of less than 200 deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 2026 will not be met. Having zero road deaths by 2050 is ambitious but our target can be nothing less. Saying otherwise means we simply factor in death as a price we pay for putting transport efficiency ahead of saving lives. That's not something any government, any political party, any candidate, wants on the balance sheet.

We know what works: safer roads, safer cars, safer drivers, more enforcement, more education. We know that while we'll never be able to eliminate mistakes, we can do more to mitigate the damage to fragile human bodies when mistakes do occur.

The inquiry into National Road Safety in 2018 laid down the challenge, not just to government but for us all. They called it implementation failure. That says that nationally we have the means but not the will.

The test therefore for every candidate seeking our vote is to show they have the will and that they can work for us - and with us - to develop the means.

In this election, we want to see commitments to keeping Tasmanians safe. Confronting COVID-19 has been an extraordinarily successful community compact, created and driven by bold, informed and decisive leadership. The evidence was clear, and the government acted. It was a politics-free zone. The pandemic shows how successful preventative health campaigns can be. Road safety, in all its aspects, is a preventative health issue.

We'll test the resolve of parties and candidates in embracing an effective and united response and our members will be making judgements at the ballot box on Saturday 1 May.

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Written by our Chief Advocacy Officer Garry Bailey.