Austroads has released a new, free guide which attempts to address a dearth of relevant information about road safety guidance for local government.
“The purpose of the guidance is to rectify this, by compiling contemporary information on the reasons for establishing, and processes for developing and implementing a road safety management framework for local government into a single document,” the 64-page free guide said.
Numerous local government representatives contributed to the new guide, including from councils across Australia and New Zealand, and also the ALGA, Local Government Association of South Australia, and WA Local Government Association.
According to ALGA’s evidence, local government owns and manages around 76 percent of the country’s national road network by length, some 662,000km.
More than half of all casualty crashes and about 40 percent of all road deaths occur on local government roads.
A motorist on a local road has a risk of being seriously injured that is 1.5 times higher than driving on a state road.
Furthermore, road maintenance is the largest item of expenditure for many councils.
“Despite this, local government tends to receive less funding and have fewer staff dedicated to improving road safety than their state counterparts,” the Austroads report said.
“Industry guidance has also largely mirrored the flow of safety investment i.e. towards situations more commonly found on state roads.”
Topics covered in the guide include developing a framework for road safety management, safe speeds and safe people, and monitoring and evaluation.
The guide’s author, Paul Durdin, said local government roads typically have lower traffic volumes than state roads, more dispersed crashes, and a variety of road environments from high-speed rural and remote ones to local streets in urban areas.
“All these factors make managing road safety on local roads challenging and this is compounded when local councils have few if any dedicated road safety staff,” Mr Durdin said.
The guide notes that adequate funding of road safety initiatives is “imperative” to achieving road safety results.
ALGA has for a long time advocated to the Commonwealth Government that while Local Government’s expenditure has been increasing, it receives fewer funds each year via Financial Assistance Grants.
The Austroads guide notes the funding challenges, and said councils with limited budgets must try to be efficient with their road safety activities.
“One of the best ways to achieve this is to focus on low-cost, high-effectiveness treatments that have extensive network coverage,” the guide said.
“Examples include changing speed limits, audio-tactile line marking, corridor delineation enhancements and maintenance activities that improve safety outcomes, such as resurfacing.”