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New Tech to Measure Safety of Local Western Australia Roads

A tool designed specifically to meet the needs of local governments to assess the safety of local roads to reduce death and serious injuries will be developed by researchers from The University of Western Australia.

UWA and Western Australian Local Government Association’s (WALGA) RoadWise received funding from the Australian Government Office of Road Safety’s Road Safety Innovation Fund to identify a suitable safety rating tool that could evaluate the safety performance of WA’s local roads network. The Safety Ratings for Local Roads project will help inform decisions on the State’s infrastructure projects and prioritise investment.

UWA’s Western Australian Centre for Road Safety Research will review existing road safety rating tools in consultation with local governments and other stakeholders to establish the key criteria for a local government road safety rating tool in a new approach to road safety. The Centre will then develop technology that is simple and quick to apply so that all local governments can benefit from road safety ratings, without requiring access to the capability and resources that current tools require.

Associate Professor Paul Roberts said the team was looking forward to working with WALGA’s RoadWise to improve the safety of local roads. Dr Roberts said that implementing a safety rating tool will provide local governments with high-level information about their road network and support strategic decision-making to improve the safety performance of their road network.

The Director of the Western Australian Centre for Road Safety Research stated that the Centre was delighted to be working with WALGA and RoadWise on this important initiative to improve local government road safety in WA. She noted that local government roads comprise more than 80% of the road network in WA and incur nearly 60% of the fatalities and serious injuries. It is critical to develop tools that are practically applicable, with special attention to the resourcing and capability constraints often faced by local governments.

WALGA President and Mayor of the City of Wanneroo Tracey Roberts said the new project would provide an evidence base for assessing the safety of local roads and support local governments to prioritise infrastructure projects which had the largest impact on reducing death and serious injuries. The project will run over three years with completion in mid-2023.

Recent research shows that the global road safety market size was valued at US$2.88 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.4% from 2021 to 2028.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, road fatalities witnessed a sharp decline. However, in the second quarter of 2020, traffic volume witnessed a rise with ease in lockdown restrictions. This period witnessed an increase in road fatalities caused mainly by drivers engaging in risky behaviour by violating speed limits, failing to wear seat belts, and being under alcohol influence.

Therefore, traffic management and safety authorities worldwide kicked off a program to mitigate such incidences by investing in new road safety solutions. Although the pandemic hindered the growth in 2020, the market was expected to reach pre-COVID levels by the end of 2020 and a steady recovery in 2021.

Globally, a rise in road fatalities has been a primary factor favouring road safety sales. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), road accidents lead to over 1.3 million deaths each year, with over 15 million people suffering non-fatal injuries resulting in disability or other health conditions.

Therefore, safety on highways has gained prominence, with governments worldwide promoting initiatives to lower these numbers. On account of these factors, the road safety market will gain traction over the forecast period and shall surpass US$6 billion by 2028.

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