Industry Issues, Transport Features

The significance of National Road Safety Week

All around the country this week people have been remembering and turning their minds to road safety. A time to reflect on our role as road users and strive towards zero accidents on Australian roads.

On 15 February 2012, Peter Frazer’s daughter Sarah was killed by a truck driver in what has been described as a completely avoidable crash on the Hume Freeway in New South Wales. 

That event changed his life forever. Knowing it could have been avoided if only better policies and programs were in place, spurred him onto action and since then Frazer has dedicated his life to improving road safety in Australia and overseas.  

In March 2012, Frazer founded SARAH (Safer Australian Roads and Highways), colloquially known as Sarah Group. For the past 11 years he has used his more than 40 years’ experience in social justice, policy, research, law enforcement and intelligence, to positively influence government, corporate and community through his road safety advocacy. 

Frazer created and remains the driving force behind Australia’s National Road Safety Week, and the nation’s road safety symbol, the “Yellow Ribbon”.   

National Road Safety Week (NRSW) is an initiative that partners road safety organisations and governments to highlight the impact of road trauma and the ways we, as road users, can reduce it. 

Indeed, since the death of Frazer’s daughter over a decade ago there remains much work to be done. Every year, more than 1,200 people are killed and 44,000 seriously injured on Australian roads. 

SARAH says National Road Safety Week is a time for us to remember those people who have experienced trauma on our roads. It urges communities to come together and make a pledge to ensure the roads are safe for everyone. The group says all road users must work collectively to change attitudes and behaviours, to tackle road trauma and to shape the future of our roads. It asks us what we will do in our day-to-day life to make the roads safer for ourselves and for others. 

National Road Safety Week week, which continues until Sunday, May 21, 2023,is organised around eight daily themes that each touch on aspects of road safety and ways we can improve it: 

  • Remember the 1200 – Today we remember the lives lost on our roads.
  • Your Road Safety Pledge – Take the pledge, make every journey count.
  • Road Safety for Young People – Don’t speed, think about your actions.
  • Slow down and give space – Slow down to protect those who protect and assist us.
  • How safe is my ride – Think about safety when choosing a car.
  • Let’s all get home safe – When driving, slow down and look out for pedestrians (Friday 19 May).
  • Share the path – Give each other the space needed to be safe (Saturday 20 May).
  •  Take care on regional roads – Slow down, be alert and drive to the conditions (Sunday 21 May). 

In addition to road safety programs and education campaigns, Australian states across the country also make an effort to light up landmarks in the initiative’s colour – yellow –  to shine a light on road safety and remember those who have lost their lives and been seriously injured in road trauma on our roads. 

As an example, South Australian bridges, buildings and icons including Adelaide Oval, the Riverbank Footbridge and Adelaide Entertainment Centre were lit up this year.light up yellow. In Victoria organisers say the golden glow of several landmarks, including Melbourne’s Bolte Bridge and Flinders Street Station, served to draw attention to the damage road trauma creates  on all those involved in crashes, including the injured themselves, their families and the communities they live in. 

Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety Melissa Horne says that this week, National Road Safety Week, is an opportune time to reminder road users of the need to take care. 

“Road safety is a shared responsibility, and we need all Victorians to play their part in keeping our roads safe,” Horne says. 

“This National Road Safety Week will see several iconic landmarks across Victoria illuminated yellow in memory of those who have tragically lost their lives on the state’s roads and support those that have been impacted by road trauma.” 

The key messages for motorists this year are about planning ahead, driving to the conditions, avoiding distractions, and taking regular breaks. 

Other road transport bodies are making their unique contributions to the initiative, such as the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) using the week to highlight the need for more mental health focus in road safety. 

NatRoad reported that during the 12 months to the end of December 2022, 185 people died in crashes involving heavy trucks. These included 89 deaths in crashes involving articulated trucks and 101 deaths in crashes involving heavy rigid trucks.

Heavy rigid truck involvement in fatalities increased by 50.7 per cent when compared with one year earlier.

“If we’re going to achieve zero deaths and serious injuries by 2050, a lot of work needs to be done,” NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says.

“We need to better understand the cause of heavy vehicle fatalities, particularly the fact that in calendar 2022 heavy rigid truck fatalities exceeded articulated truck deaths for the first time in a decade.

“NatRoad also wants a greater focus on mental health research to help prevent people choosing ‘suicide by truck’.” 

The core of the initiative’s message and part of its appeal and success is that road safety is not up to any one individual, organisation or even government, but that all of us as road users must each do our own part to make the roads safer. 

Whether that means driving more carefully during your commute, paying better attention to fatigue or educating others about the dangers of driving while distracted. 

Much like how Frazer’s daughter Sarah didn’t have to lose her life in an accident over ten years ago, many of the 1,200 deaths that occur each year can also be prevented.


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