The West

Safety boss: I m only human
Road Safety Council chairman D'Arcy Holman. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

As chairman of the Road Safety Council, you would think D'Arcy Holman's driving record would be a touchy subject.

But he openly admits that he has copped the occasional fine for low-level speeding, including one when he was council chairman.

"I'm an ordinary person who stuffs up occasionally," he said.

"But the whole point of road safety is to make the road system safe for imperfect human beings, so I think it's good that a typical imperfect human being chairs the Road Safety Council."

As a man who has analysed the science behind WA's "disgraceful" road toll, Professor Holman knows better than most that speeding, even just a bit, is not harmless.

He says enforcement is one way of changing behaviour and even thinks penalties for low-level speeding should be tougher.

"The reality is going 5km/h over doubles your risk of a crash and that's the same as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05," he said. "If you go 10km/h over, it's like being 0.08."

Professor Holman is a renowned public health researcher who has been the brains behind many successful campaigns including those targeting tobacco, cancer, infectious diseases and improvements in indigenous health.

But for the past three years the unassuming 57-year-old has been the face and "mouthpiece" for road safety, trying to win what he says is a war and prevent the 200 deaths and 3000 serious injuries from crashes each year.

"I find it shocking and unacceptable that WA has the highest road fatality rate of any Australian State," he said. WA health efforts usually lead the nation but it lagged behind in road safety, he said. It is the only State not to issue a demerit point for low-level speeding or ban radar detectors. It has a higher speed limit than most States and the lowest number of supervised hours for new drivers.

While some people claim tougher measures will turn WA into a nanny State, Professor Holman says Victoria, which has Australia's lowest crash rate, is not a place where liberal values are suppressed.

His first three-year term as head of the council ends in October.

Since taking on the role, he has helped develop a plan for exactly how and where funding, including money from the Road Trauma Trust Fund, which is collected from speed and red-light camera fines, should be spent.

Road trauma costs the WA community more than $2 billion each year. It will cost $2.4 billion to fund Towards Zero, a strategy designed to cut road deaths by 40 per cent using initiatives such as installing audible edge lining on rural roads, improving urban intersections, cutting speed limits, targeting drink and drug drivers and making cars safer.

Professor Holman said he was proud of what he has achieved but would like to see the road toll drop.

"I want WA to be the first and the best in road safety, not the laggard," he said.

The West Australian

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