Five decisions for safer roads

Over the years there have been some significant decisions made in relation to motor vehicle safety which have reduced the road toll or improved traffic management.

Some have been made by governments and others made by motor vehicle manufacturers in a bid to make travelling on our roads safer.

Five decisions over the past 40 years stand out.

The first was the legislation introduced by the NSW transport minister Milton Morris in 1971 to make the wearing of seatbelts compulsory in NSW. That single decision has saved an unknown number of lives. Thankfully, these days putting on your seatbelt is second nature. 

The compulsory wearing of seatbelts is probably the most profound single decision which has had the biggest positive impact on reducing the number of traffic accident deaths across Australia. Becoming law firstly in Victoria in 1970 and then in NSW, the success of this legislation prompted other countries around the world to follow suit.

Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the introduction of random breath tests in NSW, an unpopular law at the time which was touted would result in hotels and clubs closing because people could no longer enjoy a drink and drive home.

That did not occur, but what it did do was help prompt the responsible consumption of alcohol and educate people about the dangers of alcohol-impaired driving.

While plenty of motorists continue to get caught drink-driving, the law has had a positive impact on reducing the number of alcohol-related accidents and fatalities. Responsible people simply do not take the risk.

They attract regular criticism, but roundabouts have made a big difference to traffic management. The fact they facilitate better traffic flow and prompt caution at intersections where they are installed has helped reduce the number of accidents at these dangerous and busy trouble spots.

The introduction of air bags in motor vehicles has saved lives and reduced serious injuries. The technology in motor vehicles continues to leap forward and has played a major party in reducing the state’s road toll from 1253 deaths in 1982 to 364 last year. It is estimated there are two million more motorists on the state’s roads today compared to 30 years ago.

Point-to-point cameras which target speeding heavy vehicles are now prominently placed on major highways and provide drivers who want to break the speed limit with no escape. They are a practical addition to the law and enforcement arsenal and will help slow down cowboy truck drivers who place lives at risk by driving at excessive speed.

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