Presentation by Neil O'Keefe VMAC Chair SOUTH AUSTRALIA DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT, ENERGY AND INFRASTRUCTURE MOTORCYCLE SAFETY FORUM Wednesday February 24, 2010 8.30 am PRESENTATION BY Hon NEIL O’KEEFE CHAIRMAN - VICTORIAN MOTORCYCLE ADVISORY COUNCIL “GOOD PROGRESS IN VICTORIA – BASED ON PARTNERSHIPS THAT WORK” Thank you for the invitation to speak at the Forum today – I consider it a privilege to be involved with you at this level – and hopefully I can bring you some insights into some of the progress in Victoria resulting from a much stronger collaboration and working partnership between government agencies, rider groups and industry. The following are my personal views and I say also at the outset – I am not here to lecture you on how wonderful the scene is in Victoria – but some of our results are good and something is working – so if I can add anything positive to your mix it will be good – but if I can also pick up some ideas from you for our work ahead it will be a solid outcome from both our points of view. I have for some of you copies of a couple of our key documents. The first is the recently published VMAC 2008-2009 Annual Report which gives a good overview of the workings of the Council – the second is the new Victorian 5 year Strategic Action Plan for Powered Two wheelers 2009-2013, launched by Minister Pallas in August 2009, which sets out the blueprint we are all working to as we plan and deliver the agreed critical actions ahead. Perhaps for now I will just summarise a few of the key points I made at the launch of the strategy and more recently in my December VMAC Chairman’s note to members – and then leave it to questions later and our panel session this afternoon to flesh out any more details you may wish to ask me about. Firstly at the launch of the new Victorian 5 year strategy in August last year I observed that “something is working in Victoria” – the trend line is a consistent reduction in deaths of motorcyclists and pillions of over 20% per annum for the past two years. This is occurring while sales and registrations continue to increase at the same rates as the rest of Australia and despite the fact that the national trend line for deaths and serious injuries continues to increase – albeit at a lesser rate – which is of course good news everywhere. Serious injuries however continue to be an issue. There does not seem to be any evidence that it is just the GFC and a fall in traffic numbers – even the most sceptical are beginning to accept that this is more than a statistical blip – there is a trend emerging – and a very positive one at that. I think the explanation for this difference starts with the Victorian Government having been prepared to recognise the extent of the problem of motorcycle deaths and injuries within the general road toll, take some political and policy risks – and the results and future possibilities are now becoming clear for all to see. The Levy The first was the introduction of the safety levy on Victoria ‘s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) premium on motorcycles (compulsory 3rd party insurance in 2002. It was unpopular and perhaps even unfair – but it has brought some clear financial focus to the policy issue of rider safety and has served to leverage much greater attention and spending on solutions for rider safety than the small revenue item involved would normally generate. It has contributed to delivery of actions under the Victorian Road Safety Strategy for Motorcycles 2002-2007 and a number of motorcycle specific actions under arrive alive Victoria’s road safety strategies. The Government agreed to consultation with riders and industry on the spending of the Levy. This has resulted in much stronger collaboration and policy input with the agencies than these groups would normally achieve in government processes – and as the Minister commented at the Launch – a number of successful refinements to long established research, engineering and design practices have emerged that just would not have happened otherwise. The projects funded from the Levy are over and above the annual motorcycle safety programs conducted by the TAC, VicRoads and Victoria Police. Levy funded projects approved to the end of December 2009 include 134 road improvement projects on popular motorcycle routes and at locations with a history of motorcycle crashes, valued at $21.1 million. In addition, 50 education or research and development projects costing $14.5 million have been approved. Of the 184 approved projects, 144 have been completed. The Victorian Minister now wants to see that collaboration expanded even further – and he is correct in looking to the potential of this now. Inclusion in general Transport Policy The second “risk” I will mention is embodied in the title of the new strategy. It is not just a “safety” strategy – as has been the case in the past – it is a “road safety and transport strategy” and there is a world of difference in the meaning behind this change. The Victorian Government has recognised that the number of PTW’s on the roads is growing . It recognises that PTWs offer the potential to contribute to a reduction in traffic congestion, air pollution, fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions . As such it includes actions which will ensure PTWS are agiven appropriate recognition in transport policy and planning in Victoria. This is a first for Australia! The Victorian Government is actually saying “OK –yes it is risky to ride motorcycles and scooters – but there are some potential and people want to do it. Therefore instead of discouraging it let’s accept this and turn our focus to maximising the benefits and making it safer in any way we can”. Training and Skills Development The third risk for government built into the strategy is a major shift in long term government policy around supporting training for riders and drivers in skills and hazard perception. It may come as a surprise to many but for decades in Australia there has been a belief among many policy makers that government should not be funding training programs as a road safety measure. The rationale behind this is that there is no research to support the view that improved skills will make riders safer. In fact the contrary view has always prevailed – that the more training people receive, the more confident they will become and the more risks they will take. Sounds crazy doesn’t it – but that has been the policy brick wall for the 20 years or so that I have been involved in these things. Yet every Australia Post mail deliverer who rides a “postie bike” does initial training and regular refresher courses. Why – because Australia Post learned quickly that they could only continue to use the bikes if they could reduce the early accident rates they experienced – which they have done through coaching and training! Every emergency services driver or rider – police, ambulances, fire brigade and so on – all receive intensive training and refresher courses. Under this new strategy we have won approval for a $2 million spend on a new Levy funded “assisted rides” research and coaching project which will be a first for Australia at this level. With the help of VicRoads, MUARC and Industry training providers such as HART and Stay Upright, 2000 riders will be funded through an “assisted ride” coaching experience aimed at improving skills such as road craft, bike positioning and hazard perception. The project will research the outcomes and hopefully prove once and for all that coaching and refresher courses are a key component of improving safety as our roads become more congested and riders need to be better equipped to handle the conditions. It is a risk – but I believe it represents a win for common sense – and I commend the agencies – VicRoads, TAC and Victoria Police for being prepared to undertake this trial in Victoria. Community policing and education: Can I also take this opportunity to tell you a little about a new program we have funded through the Motorcycle Safety Levy via collaboration between rider groups, industry and Victoria Police. We call it the Community Policing and Education project and it has involved the successful introduction of the new “coaching” approach to enforcement being trialled by police officers in Victoria. It has been developed from some of the ideas picked up from “Bikesafe London” and the Yarra Ranges “assisted rides” program conducted in the Yarra Valley by the Yarra Ranges Shire Council. The funds have been used to pay for a greater Police presence on the roads in areas where motorcycling takes place and a “coaching” as well as some booking” approach to transgressions – where police officers draw the attention of riders and drivers to poor practices that in particular put motorcyclists at risk. Of the thousands who have been intercepted for an observed reason relatively few have actually been issued with an offence notice. Most have had a chat about why the program is operating and what we are trying to achieve with it. The positive feedback from riders, drivers and the Police officers delivering the program has been way beyond our expectations. We believe it will be a key contributor to continuing progress under the strategy. We are also getting back terrific “real time” results – for instance of hundreds of interceptions there has been (I think) only 1 rider found to have exceeded the alcohol limit – great news. We also know now that the incidence of unregistered bikes and unlicensed riders is higher than we would like – and that will lead to more work on tackling these problems. A significant emphasis though is on drivers intercepted for poor practices which put motorcyclists at risk so the focus is certainly on driver habits as much as motorcycle riders. You might not be aware but CASAR, the Centre for Automotive Safety Research in South Australia is actually doing a detailed evaluation of the program for VicRoads. That evaluation is also Levy funded. Future priorities for VMAC in Victoria In many ways the December meeting wound up a strong year of progress for VMAC. I think we are now “turning the page” as we move into a new decade. For those who have been involved in the two wheeler policy debate for a long time I think it well worth taking some satisfaction at the advances which have been made in the past two years. Longstanding pressure on the need for better research, LAMS, recognition of off-road needs, incorporating PTW’s into official transport policy, improved rider training and greater focus on driver attitudes have all now been recognised and accepted into the policy agenda. And as I said earlier - our most important statistic - riders and pillion fatalities in Victoria continues to trend down. Serious injuries, however, continue to be a major challenge. That doesn’t mean we don’t still have a very big job to do on the safety front. We know there is a distressing personal experience behind every one of the crashes. We need to do much more work to understand each one in order to develop stronger policy responses. Most VMAC members would agree that the whole package of measures is working – with black spot treatments as the measurable stand out. The evaluation at 85 sites treated since the program commenced found a 24% reduction in motorcycle casualty crashes. In real terms, this means that 24 motorcycle casualty crashes are prevented each year on Victoria’s highest risk roads for motorcyclists. We also agree we are entering a new zone where most of the gains will come from working with riders and drivers on skills, attitudes and hazard perception. More focus will shift to programs such as “assisted rides”, community education and policing, improved preparation and licensing along with strong use of a variety of media and stronger collaboration with dealerships to reach riders and drivers with key safety messages. The PTW Transport policy agenda I will finish now with a little more about the broadening the Strategic Action Plan to specifically incorporate “transport” policy. There is no point government positioning itself as wanting to head off our cities becoming mini “LA’s” as car numbers increase and freeways continue to be built. If Melbourne is to be more like a Paris or a Rome – you need to understand it is not just about public transport and bike paths. Paris and Rome facilitate the use of bikes and scooters big time - and we must also. Victoria has now adopted motorcycles and scooters as a considered component of the state transport strategy. This is an exciting breakthrough for riders and industry advocates. Work will now begin on measures which put that commitment into effect in the years ahead. The developmental work will be guided by planners and policy makers in VicRoads, Victoria Police, Department of Transport and TAC. There are many examples of changes in thinking which will come about. “Park and ride” policy, road and intersection engineering, provision for parking, environmental managament and road space – just a few of the likely areas of focus. VMAC will be looking for input and ideas from a wide range of riders, industry leaders, planners and researchers active in the field. It is a long term approach – and we are keen to do our bit to make sure it happens. Thank you once again That is enough for now from me – I hope this gives you some good insights and thank you once again for inviting me to the Forum.