WESTERN Australia’s Deputy Premier and Minister for Police and Road Safety has done the State’s motorcycling community a disservice in her response to the 2016-2020 Motorcycle Safety Review.
When she was presented with the report, Liza Harvey was given a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make roads safer for motorbike riders. Instead, she’s shuffled the report back into the bowels of bureaucracy with no funding, no timeframe for a response, and no direction from the boss.
Among the multiple facts, figures, findings and recommended actions, the report comes down to this: motorbike riders are crashing and being killed in Perth because car drivers don’t see them at intersections.
It has nothing to do with speed. It has nothing to do with a particular group of riders’ prior traffic convictions. It has nothing to do with drugs and alcohol. It certainly has nothing to do with (good grief!) whether we use helmets that have been approved by someone in Canberra or someone in Brussels.
(Of course, the helmet laws were going to be changed anyway. Queensland approved the European standard in February 2015; Victoria, in August 2015; NSW in December 2015. We guess that Western Australia simply sat on the decision so it could be released in response to the review. By the time Minister Harvey announced it, Western Australia was the only State still requiring the old Australian standard. As a recommendation of the safety review, it was simply a case of the report authors picking some low-hanging fruit. As a political announcement, it was a furphy. The Minister described it as “a key recommendation”. What a load of bollocks.)
No it didn’t. It did no such thing. In fact, the review said this: “Attending Police reported that speed, alcohol/drugs, and inattention – either in combination or singularly – were ‘causal’ factors in 36% of crashes.”
But then we came across this little gem, on page 45 of the 49-page document: “While there is agency level commitment to implementation of the actions recommended in the report, Ministerial endorsement of actions in the Transport and other portfolios is required.”
When we looked more closely at the Minister’s media statement, we realised she had not said the recommendations would be “implemented”, she’d said they would be “pursued”. It also became clearer on a second look that there was no real timeframe, other than that ambiguous notion of recommendations being “pursued over the next four years”. We wondered what would happen if Ministerial endorsement isn’t given? Or if agencies never get around to pursuing the actions? Or having ‘pursued’ them, they decide not to implement them? What if agencies need extra funding to implement recommendations? And when is the Road Safety Commission going to report back to the Minister on progress — next week? Next year? After the next election? In 20 years time?
So we fired off an email to the Minister’s office, seeking clarification. And while we were at it, we asked if the Minister could tell us more about her curious line that “most crashes were speed-related”.
The email went like this:
I am working an article on the motorcycle safety strategy report released by the Minister on 1 April.
Can you please provide some answers to the following questions?:
1. It’s not entirely clear whether the actions from the report will proceed. (Page 45: “While there is agency level commitment to implementation of the actions recommended in the report, Ministerial endorsement of actions in the Transport and other portfolios is required.”) Have appropriate Ministers endorsed the actions, or been asked to endorse them?
2. Have agencies been given any deadline or timeframe to develop their implementation plans?
3. On what basis did the minister state that most fatal crashes “were speed-related”? (Third para of media statement.) I can find no such reference in the report.
4. When will the RSC make its first report to the Minister on progress with implementation?
Thanks for your help.
The Bike Shed Times
A month later (yes, really) we got a response. Here it is:
Well, gosh. That’s illuminating, isn’t it?
Will the recommendations actually be implemented? We don’t know.
Have Ministers endorsed, or been asked to endorse, the recommendations? We presume not.
Have agencies been given a timeframe or deadline? It seems not.
Where does the report say most crashes were speed related? Oh, it doesn’t. But hey, speeding is bad, right? (Er, yes. We know.)
And when will the Minister hear back on progress? Dunno. Later.
We could spend a whole bunch of time to-ing and fro-ing with the Minister’s office on this. At a one-month turnaround time for correspondence, we wouldn’t want to be in a hurry.
So, instead, we sent the Minister another email. It went like this:
Thank you for your response to my questions regarding the motorcycle safety review.
I acknowledge that you have answered my question in regards to your assertion that “most crashes were speed related”. As you said, speeding was not reported as a major factor.
In regard to my other questions, I gather the Government has not committed to implementing the recommendations (other than the helmet regulation, already announced). I am left to assume Ministers have not been asked to endorse the recommendations, agencies do not have any specific timeframe in which to develop their implementation plans, and you don’t know when you are going to hear from the MSRG or RSC. May I encourage you to ensure these things play out in a timely manner.
I believe the review has put a spotlight on a single dominant safety issue that can and should be the subject of direct action. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Car drivers are failing to see motorcyclists at intersections, especially at afternoon peak hour.
In addition to the process now underway, may I suggest:
1) As Police Minister, introduce legislation (this year) requiring motorcyclists to illuminate their headlights after 3pm each day;
2) As Road Safety Minister, instruct the RSC (this year) to allocate and spend $500,000 from the Road Trauma Trust Account on a television campaign encouraging car drivers to ‘look twice’ at intersections.
3) As Road Safety Minister, request the Transport Minister to seek from Main Roads a more detailed analysis (this year) of those intersections referred to on page 19 of the report to ascertain whether or not they contain environmental factors that are likely to cause or contribute to the severity of crashes. If so, implore the Minister to encourage MRD to remedy.
The Bike Shed Times”
So, here’s the rub. As things stand right now, the Government has agreed to implement just one recommendation from this major report on bike safety: European helmets. That’s it. We might never hear another word about this review and its recommendations. It is possible that the Minister and the multiple government agencies involved will decide (very slowly) to do nothing … let this matter wither on the vine until it’s all just a memory.
We don’t think that’s good enough. We think the review uncovered some important facts that demand a response with some urgency; the main one being strong evidence that car drivers are failing to see bike riders at intersections on a frequent basis, and killing them. We’re also uncomfortable with the notion that some of the corners on which bike riders have been killed might be inherently unsafe — and that there seems to be no intention to investigate further.
We think the Minister should be forcing action to make intersections safer. We think she should start with the suggestions we made in our email to her.
If you agree with us, email the Minister and tell her so. Her email address is Minister.Harvey@dpc.wa.gov.au Even better if you CC us on the email (firstname.lastname@example.org) If you want to get political, you could also CC the leader of the State Opposition and see if he wants to join this conversation. Mark McGowan’s email address is email@example.com
To view the full report, visit http://www.rsc.wa.gov.au and look under the ‘Statistics and Reviews’ tab. It’s worth reading.