Agitation is growing over delays in pushing ahead with important lifesaving car technology, as the "silent epidemic" of road crash trauma puts around 100 Australians in hospital every day.
Dr John Crozier, chairman of the trauma committee at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons described it as "delinquent" for the Australian government to incur years of delay when "at a stroke of a pen", autonomous emergency braking could be made standard on all new vehicles.
Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is a computer-controlled function which uses sensors ahead of the car to detect that a crash is imminent, and brakes the vehicle automatically without the need for driver intervention.
Five long years ago, a report by the federal government's Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics studied the technology's life-saving benefits.
"Autonomous emergency braking systems will save lives as they are introduced to the vehicle fleet," the report said.
"The technology in light vehicles is expected to save over 1200 lives and prevent 54,000 hospitalised injuries by 2033.
"Over 400 of these deaths and 10,000 of the hospitalised injuries . . . are pedestrians and pedal cyclists."
While lobbyists the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries avoids raising the issue, consumer groups like the Australian Automobile Association have been vocal, describing road trauma as the nation's "silent epidemic" with over 44,000 victims every year.
Recent data released by the Canberra-based Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), which crash tests and rates new cars, found that as at July this year, 54 per cent of new cars featured the braking technology as standard, up from 31 per cent around 18 months ago.
Many luxury cars have it as standard equipment, but relatively few entry-level cars despite the technology's cheap cost. For instance, seven years ago a new Volkswagen Up! had AEB as standard. It sold for just $13,990.
While so-called "non-regulatory action" by car importers has increased the fitment rate, it's moving far too slowly for those who work in road trauma.
Australia's 2019 calendar year road toll is racing upwards with Victoria and Queensland experiencing significant spikes in road-related trauma this year.
Road crashes, according to the federal government's own departmental data, costs the country $27 billion a year.
To the end of August there were 826 road deaths across Australia, compared with 759 for the same period last year.
Dr Crozier wants the technology fast-tracked into new vehicles, and not give car importers the "easy out" of fitting it into their future production schedules.
"We have known for years that this braking technology saves lives; the car companies know it, the government knows it and the public knows it," Dr Crozier said.
"As surgeons we see the carnage from road crashes every day.
"This issue demands the government take some genuine leadership; the lengthy approval processes which would further delay this technology need to be set aside.
"The longer it takes to get this done, the more people die on our roads.
"It's as simple as that."
A draft standard for the technology has been approved for Australia but this is just the start of a long, involved governmental process in which a Regulatory Impact Statement is prepared, followed by a lengthy consultation, then the drafting of a design rule, followed by legislation.
Plans are underway to mandate the technology firstly on heavy vehicles, although this could take as long as 18 months.