Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall speaks about the importance of Road Safety

22 November 2021


This is such an important motion. Road safety is so important for many. Yesterday was the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, a shocking reminder that each year 1.2 million to 1.3 million people lose their lives to traffic accidents globally. In Australia road trauma stubbornly persists as the leading cause of death for people aged one to 14, despite various efforts from government and community groups to shift the dial. As we come to the end of the parliamentary sitting calendar, we are also approaching holiday season. With international travel opportunities still limited, our roads are likely to be busier than ever, with people taking their holidays domestically and enjoying long-awaited trips. It means that we all need to be especially careful when it comes to road safety. While vast improvements have been made to the safety of our roads, through investments in upgrades and changes to speed limits, especially around schools, we need to be mindful of where schoolchildren go and play when they are not in school, when they are on holidays.

In my electorate of Warringah, two of my constituents have launched an organisation, Little Blue Dinosaur, that targets precisely that issue. The Little Blue Dinosaur Foundation was launched following the tragic death of their four-year-old son Tom in a pedestrian road accident on the Central Coast in 2014. The message 'Slow down; kids around' is an essential one that must be heard on every street, in every city and town. It's especially important in holiday time to remember where kids are likely to be playing. The Holiday Time campaign led by Little Blue Dinosaur is an important initiative, and it's great to see that over 63 local government areas, including the Northern Beaches Council in my electorate, have signed up to the initiative. The signs are bright and colourful to encourage conversations with children about road safety. There are also media and educational campaigns along with the signage. We need to be hypervigilant, especially with children 10 years and under. Little Blue Dinosaur have found that the cognitive development of children 10 years and under is still growing, and, when you call them to stop, their reflexes aren't there to stop immediately. Little Blue Dinosaur were recently awarded a grant to collaborate with the University of New South Wales to analyse data on road accidents and develop a pilot program to be rolled out across seven local government areas. More needs to be done to promote safety on our roads. Between January 2014 and July 2021, 430 young people were killed in road trauma incidents. I encourage all councils, especially those in holiday destinations, to sign up to the Holiday Time initiative and promote the brightly coloured signs alerting drivers to the presence of children near beaches, parks and campgrounds.

I would also like to highlight the important work to improve active transport and pedestrian safety around schools in Warringah. Nearly $3 million has been spent on upgrading pedestrian safety and active transport links around schools in the Northern Beaches Council area alone. It's great to see the completion of work around the Mackellar girls high school, and I look forward to seeing the improvements around the future site of Forest High School, Harbord Public School, St John the Baptist Catholic Primary School, Curl Curl North Public School and Manly selective high school. It's a huge benefit to our community, making roads and transport safer for pedestrians and cyclists. It's key to building a greater sense of community and encouraging active lifestyles. To promote active travel and public transport has both environmental and health benefits due to increased physical activity. The Centre for Urban Research has found the number of Australian children walking or cycling to school has halved over the past 40 years, with less than a third now regularly walking or cycling to school. So we need to improve road safety, build walkable neighbourhoods, increase investment in cycling infrastructure and education and coordinate active transport and public transport provisions to turn this around.

I thank the member for Forde for bringing forward this important and timely motion. I urge all Australians, especially now, as we come out of many months of lockdown, as you travel around the country this holiday season, please be mindful of who you're sharing the roads with. Think about walking or riding rather than driving. Look out for children and remember Tom's words: 'Slow down; kids around.' Road safety is something that we need to keep working on. There are many aspects to road safety, whether it's in regional areas or in urban areas, but all need to have the attention of government and need more development.


Photo credit: Narrative Post