Road toll shaping as worst in years

Sydney Morning Herald

Wednesday 17 November 1999

NSW is headed for its worst road toll since 1995 amid fears another 100 people may die before the end of the year.

The toll has climbed to 503, with nine deaths last weekend. It represents an increase of more than 4 per cent on 1998, ending any chance of achieving the 1995 commitment by the Premier to lower the toll to below 500 by next year.

Last year 560 people died in NSW. Groups such as the NRMA, the Pedestrian Council of Australia and the Federal Office of Road Safety are concerned about the trend in NSW and other States, as the nationwide figure may be on the rise.

There are also concerns about a stand-off between the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority over the collection of accident statistics.

The RTA is refusing to contribute to statistics about the hospitalisation of accident victims because of a 1998 report that showed a 30 per cent increase a glitch which the RTA has blamed on reporting methods.

The chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, Mr Harold Scruby, said pedestrian deaths alone had increased by 10 per cent, and that each death cost the community $1 million. "The community must realise "We won't get anywhere unless we do things that are creative.

"Government agencies can't continue to pass the buck to each other, because it is a multi-faceted problem. It is an issue for health, police, roads and transport and even local government

"We're headed for an even worse [toll] next year because of the increase in activity on the roads. It will be ferocious."

The NRMA's manager of traffic and safety, Mr Stephen Gray, said: "It must be a bit of a concern because we are coming into a period of year where a number of serious crashes occur.

"There is no doubt that the road toll, nationally, seems to be plateauing. But we need to keep things in perspective because we started the 1990s with 800 fatalities and now we have less than 600."

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has been forced to halt its series of hospitalisation statistics because the figures are considered worthless without the co-operation of NSW.

The RTA withdrew cooperation in September last year after the annual report showed a blow-out of almost 30 per cent in the number of people hospitalised because of traffic accidents.

Transport bureau spokesman Dr Michael McFadden yesterday released the October figures, which showed the NSW, Victorian, Queensland and national tolls were all higher than the corresponding period last year.

The RTA was asked to comment but did not respond.