With traffic fatalities on the rise, the Australian government names two of the country’s leading road-safety experts to lead the development of a blueprint to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries.

Jeremy Woolley, director of the Center for Automotive Safety Research at the University of Adelaide, and John Crozier, chairman of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ Trauma Committee, will focus on priorities for making roads safer and report back early next year.

Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester says the inquiry will look to improve the effectiveness of the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020. The strategy, signed by all Australian governments in 2011, aims to reduce road deaths and injuries by at least 30% by 2020.

Traffic deaths initially declined but have increased for the past two years.

“I’m worried that we are too accepting of the fact 1,300 Australians will die on our roads and tens of thousands will be injured this year,” Chester says.

“Road trauma has an enormous social impact and in economic terms, road injury costs our nation an estimated A$30 billion ($24.1 million) a year. I don’t accept that as a price we have to pay for a modern transport system.”

Chester says Woolley and Crozier will draw on their own knowledge and that of other professionals who are working across Australia to reduce road trauma. “I’m confident their work will save lives,” he says.

James Goodwin, CEO of the Australasian New Car Assessment Program, says the rising highway death toll is a concern and vehicle safety needs to be a key focus.

“New vehicles entering the Australian fleet are the safest they’ve ever been, but we must also consider the entire vehicle fleet,” he says.

ANCAP analysis shows the average age of a car on the road is 9.8 years, but the average age of a vehicle involved in a fatal crash is 12.9 years.

“In just one year, this has increased from an average of 12.5 years, so it’s clear we must also consider the older vehicles in the fleet as a means to improve road safety,” Goodwin says.

“Modern safety technologies will also play a vital role in reducing road trauma, and ANCAP’s current focus is to resource local capability to test and assess these new and emerging technologies to ensure increased safety benefits are realized.”

The Australian Automobile Assn. released a study showing road crashes cost the national economy A$29.7 billion ($23.9 billion) annually, and an accompanying list of federal policy interventions urgently needed to reduce deaths and injury.

AAA CEO Michael Bradley says the report also details the cost of road crashes to government in lost taxation, income support, and health and emergency services: A$3.7 billion ($2.97 billion) a year.