Dr John Crozier, trauma surgeon, chair of the Royal
Australasian College of Surgeons Trauma Committee, and co-chair of
the National Road Safety Strategy Inquiry, recently wrote an
opinion piece on road safety.
Two months ago, at the launch of the Inquiry report into the
Effectiveness of the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, I
reflected on my week as a trauma surgeon at Liverpool Hospital in
Monday had begun as a routine week for me, with a vascular
elective surgical list. By 9.30am, a young girl had been admitted
following a road crash. She was brought urgently to the room next
to where I was operating.
As the emergency operation proceeded and finished, I reflected
that this 17-year-old woman had started the day going to school
with her father, who was driving. I stared at her blood on my
gloves and at the seven plastic packs on the floor which had
contained blood needed for her resuscitation, each donated by a
separate Australian. I reflected on the sight of her abdomen left
open, a metre of bowel in a bucket, as she was wheeled to the
intensive care unit.
The following day she went back to theatre for further surgery
on her L3 lumbar vertebrate which had burst.
She was one of a hundred Australians, seriously injured in a car
crash, who had been managed in a similar way that Monday.
Since the launch of the Inquiry, Transport and Infrastructure
Ministers from around the country, have met to discuss the
recommendations put forward. The Inquiry, co-chaired by Professor
Jeremy Woolley and I, called for a transformative approach to road
safety. We hope that the ministers demonstrate the leadership
required, by engaging collaboratively in a coordinated effort to
implement all the recommendations proposed.
Surgeons see the carnage from road crashes daily. Each year
across Australia more than 1,200 people are killed and at least
36,000 are hospitalised. That is the equivalent of the population
of a medium-sized country town, seriously injured each year, year
Severe injury from road crashes imposes a heavy burden on health
care services and families. The lifetime costs of traumatic brain
injury and spinal injury are estimated to be $8.6 billion and $2
Infrastructure projects help build the economy. Preventable
death and preventable serious injury on infrastructure should not
be an inevitable cost associated with road travel - currently
costing $30 billion every year. A greater emphasis of harm
elimination integrally engineered into infrastructure is
Agencies responsible for road safety should be able to
demonstrate the benefits of policy measures in terms of a reduced
number of crashes, fatalities and serious injuries, with reliable
data available in near real time.
Every year 1.2 million new vehicles arrive in Australia. South
Korea implemented mandatory autonomous emergency braking, and
electronic stability control as a regulated requirement of all
newly arriving vehicles last year. Why can't we, as a nation, be as
Vision Zero by 2050 is a realistic goal, as is the intermediate
goal of zero death and zero serious injuries in major central
business districts and interconnecting highways by 2030. We know it
can be done, because there are 27 towns in NSW which have not
recorded a single death from road crashes in the past five
Each month, there are one hundred of us who won't be here
anymore. If their grave stones were added to the lawns outside
Parliament House each month, we wouldn't complacently accept
business as usual. We would acknowledge the burden of road trauma
as a silent public health epidemic, and act swiftly with the scale
and stimulus needed to end this tragedy.
The barriers of federalism, siloism between agencies,
passive verbs incorporated in road safety action policies, absence
of nominated authorities responsible for action, and a lack of
calibration tools embedded in policy should not be allowed to
continue, for if they do, so too will the current devastation on