Australia’s Road Safety Crisis: Falling Behind the World and What It Costs You

Australia’s commitment to road safety has traditionally been strong, with various initiatives aimed at reducing road fatalities and injuries. However, as technology advances, the gap between Australia’s safety standards for new vehicles and those of leading global benchmarks, notably the European Union (EU), is becoming increasingly evident. This disparity is highlighted by the slow adoption of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies in Australian vehicles, technologies that are becoming mandatory in Europe and have proven potential to save lives on the road.


The Urgency for Advanced Safety Features

The EU’s proactive stance, mandating a suite of ADAS features for all new car models from July 2022 and for all new cars from July 2023, sets a precedent that Australia is currently trailing. Features like Intelligent Speed Assistance, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot detection sensors, and “black box” event recorders are now compulsory in Europe, underlining a commitment to leveraging technology for road safety.

Australia’s response, albeit cautious, is evolving. The Australian Design Rules (ADRs) are under review to potentially include these life-saving features, with automated emergency braking slated to become mandatory by 2026. This gradual inclusion of ADAS features marks a pivotal shift in Australia’s road safety strategy but also underscores the need for urgency given the technology’s potential impact on road safety outcomes.

Bridging the Safety Standards Gap

The stark difference in vehicle safety standards between Australia and the EU highlights an urgent need for Australia to align more closely with global best practices. As noted by Ingrid Johnston, CEO of the Australasian College of Road Safety, the delay in mandating new safety features means a prolonged period before these technologies become standard across the Australian vehicle fleet, given the country’s average vehicle age of around 10 years.

This delay has tangible consequences. For example, a NSW government trial suggested that speed assistance technology alone could reduce fatalities by 19 percent if universally adopted. The cost of integrating such technology, estimated by the European Commission to add $300 to $400 to the cost of new cars, is a small price to pay for the potential to save lives.


Challenges and Considerations for Local Implementation

The path to adopting these advanced safety features in Australia is not without its challenges. Infrastructure readiness, including comprehensive GPS coverage and accurate speed limit maps, is crucial for technologies like Intelligent Speed Assistance to be effective. Similarly, the effectiveness of lane-keeping assist systems is contingent on the quality of road markings, which may not be consistent across all Australian roads.

These considerations emphasize the need for a dual approach that combines regulatory changes with infrastructure improvements to support the effective deployment of ADAS technologies. As Stuart Newstead from the Monash Accident Research Centre points out, the evaluation of these technologies’ benefits in the local context is essential to ensure their effectiveness and suitability for Australian roads.

Consumer Guidance and International Alignment

The role of the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) in providing safety ratings for new vehicles is crucial in guiding consumer choices towards safer cars. ANCAP’s assessments, which include evaluating non-mandatory safety features, play a vital role in raising awareness about vehicle safety standards and encouraging manufacturers to prioritize safety.


Furthermore, aligning Australia’s design standards with international standards, as pursued by the Federal Transport Department, ensures that Australian drivers have access to vehicles equipped with the latest safety technologies at competitive prices. This alignment, while respecting the unique aspects of the Australian market, is key to ensuring that safety innovations are not delayed in their introduction to the Australian market.


Moving Forward

The debate over the role of regulation versus market response, as highlighted by Tony Webber of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, underscores the complexity of advancing vehicle safety standards. While the market has naturally evolved to include more safety features over time, regulatory intervention is necessary to ensure that all vehicles, regardless of price point, are equipped with essential safety technologies.


As Australia looks to reduce road fatalities and injuries, the integration of ADAS technologies into the Australian Design Rules represents a critical step forward. By learning from global best practices, especially those in the EU, and addressing the unique challenges of the Australian landscape, Australia can enhance the safety of its vehicle fleet, ultimately saving lives and reducing the burden of road trauma on society.

For more insights into vehicle safety and maintenance, explore our blog for articles like “The Importance of Using Genuine Parts In Crash Repairs” and “Worn Tyres Is Saving A Few Dollars Worth The Risk On The Road” at