Inquiry into the Impact of Road Safety Behaviours on Vulnerable Road Users

29 May 2024

I was quite interested in this particular inquiry because I have very fond but very stressful memories of my children riding their bikes to school and down to the local shops on the road and trying to teach them about road safety. It was a very, very stressful experience getting them to understand about how vulnerable they were as a cyclist on the road, even in a bike lane, and about making sure that cars around them were doing the right thing and could see them, that they were always one step ahead and thinking about whether they needed to stop at traffic lights or give way to cars or even perhaps cars that could not see them.. Like I said, it is always a very stressful time when your kids are learning how to ride a bike and indeed teaching them the road safety laws as they are growing up and you are trying to parent in the right direction.

In particular this inquiry examined how COVID-19 and the pandemic have impacted road user behaviour. Last year we know these groups made up 36 per cent of all road casualties, and the year before that they made up almost half of all road casualties, at 47 per cent. As I said to my kids when they were learning to ride on the road, if you are hit by a car, the chances of you surviving it are slim. According to the TAC, about 296 lives were tragically lost on our roads last year, and that is 296 too many. Every single one of them would have been preventable.

Sadly, the inquiry has found that in the past three to four years road users’ attitudes have become more impatient, more inattentive and, quite concerningly, more aggressive. I know just locally in the inner west about a month ago, a driver was trying to get around a really big truck. He was moving very slowly and doing the right thing – I think he was trying to turn around or reverse into one of the distribution warehouses – and for whatever reason, a guy in a ute got out and started abusing the truck driver. I was sitting there in my car not sure if I should do anything, and indeed he jumped up and tried to get in the cabin and grab hold of the truck driver. My kids were in the car just watching, and I was not sure whether I should be calling the police or filming it or if I should just keep driving. Luckily the driver from the car, who was far, far, far too aggressive, was unable to grab the driver and ended up getting back in his car and heading on. But this kind of behaviour we do see, and it is something that all of us would have noticed over the past couple of years happening on a more frequent basis.

It is fair to say that despite billions and billions of dollars that have been invested into improving our road infrastructure, folks have, unfortunately, never felt more unsafe on our roads. It is certainly an issue that I have been grappling with in my own electorate of Laverton. Some in this place may recall that earlier this year I was standing up here advocating for road safety and a red-light camera – a very popular red-light camera my community wants – to improve pedestrian safety along Leakes Road so that school kids at the nearby Truganina P–9 College, a very, very large school, could get to school safely without being hit by a car. We are quite fortunate that in those instances the incident was not fatal; they were near misses. I note that thanks to our community advocacy there are now mobile cameras set up around this intersection to progress things further and catch those who are speeding. So I do in fact sympathise with the findings made throughout this inquiry.

What the report does tell us is that education alone is not enough to change this type of behaviour, and that road safety behaviour education is something that we here in Victoria should be proud of. We know in the past the TAC’s ad campaigns tackling drink driving – we all know ‘Only a little bit over?’ and ‘If you drink, then drive, you’re a bloody idiot’ – were responsible for driving down road fatalities by 75 per cent from 1989 to 2011. (Time expired)