While this improvement is significant, four people are still killed and 90 seriously injured every day on Australian roads. Statistically this means that everyone in Australia, at some stage, has been affected by a road crash (BITRE, Road Trauma Australia, 2014).
The most common cause of serious road crashes is vehicles run off the road (BITRE, Road Trauma Australia, 2014) and experts say improving road infrastructure such as barriers, centre medians and rumble strips will have the greatest impact on road safety, potentially reducing the road toll by 86 deaths and serious injuries by 2,259 each year (BITRE, Report 140, 2014).
While the injury crash rate is historically lower on toll roads than other roads by up to 70 per cent, we are always looking for ways to tangibly improve road safety across the broader road network.
In August we awarded a $100,000 Innovation Grant to a team from the University of Newcastle in New South Wales to develop a revolutionary, new material for road safety barriers.
The material is a metallic foam that is strong, light and highly absorbent with the ability to cushion collision impacts.
The compact and absorbent nature of the new material is quite different from traditional barriers which take up a large amount of space and are designed to buckle when impacted.
The research team, led by Dr Thomas Fiedler, expects the barriers to physically reduce the impact of crashes, so when placed in critical locations will noticeably improve safety.
To be a viable alternative to traditional barriers, the new material needs to be high-performing and low cost and we are working with Dr Fiedler's team to create a prototype and production methods.