Safer cars could cut road toll by half within a decade
Safer cars could halve the road toll within 10 years. However, the latest crash test results show some vehicles still have significant room for improvement.
Australia last year recorded the lowest road toll since 1946, when the population was one-third what it is today and the three-point seatbelt was still more than a decade away.
But the head of Australia's crash test authority said the figure of 1292 road deaths in 2011 could be halved by 2020.
''It wouldn't surprise me if, by the end of this decade, we halve the road toll by virtue of safer cars,'' Nick Clark, the head of the Australasian New Car Assessment Program, told Fairfax.
''That does depend on how quickly new technology is adopted and … how quickly government and business sell [near-new company cars] to mums and dads.
''In five to 10 years we'll really cut the road toll [in] big swathes. It wouldn't surprise me if we got to 700 by 2020, or lower.''
Mr Clark's view is shared by head of NSW Police traffic services, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley.
''A 30 to 50 per cent drop is on the cards. Technology is playing a huge role in helping reduce the number of serious injury and fatal crashes,'' Mr Hartley said. ANCAP said 72 per cent of the cars it tested last year rated five stars for crash protection; only 14 per cent of vehicles tested in 2004 earned a top score.
Despite the improvements - 46 per cent of cars on sale today have a ''good'' five-star rating and 40 per cent have an ''acceptable'' four-star rating - there is still a divide in vehicle safety.
The safety of most passenger vehicles has improved because of the widespread installation of head-protecting side airbags - and technology such as stability control, which can prevent a skid in a corner by cutting engine power and/or applying brakes.
The latest round of crash testing issued today by ANCAP high- lights the differences in occupant protection when these vehicles crash.
The new Toyota Aurion sedan, on sale next month, scored the highest five-star rating of any Australian-made vehicle (36.59/37).
The Indian-made Mahindra pick-up scored a ''marginal'' three-star rating (22.60/37) despite an engineering overhaul including the addition of front-impact airbags.
Car makers are increasingly being forced to adopt the technology as government and business fleets adopt a four- or five-star minimum policy.