Roads on part of your afternoon drive home have been given a star rating by a government program, but good luck trying to find out if you're driving on a one-star or a five-star road.
Roads in the Illawarra are part of 17,000 kilometres of NSW roads that have been given a star rating, but no one outside of government knows what the ratings of roads are.
The Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) involves safety ratings of major roads across the state and around the country, but despite governments committing to sharing this information with the public, the data is inaccessible.
According to the Australian Automobile Association this secrecy inhibits the public from knowing whether the billions in government spending is going towards high risk roads, or pork barrelling.
"State governments all know where their dangerous roads are, they know what the causes are of crashes that are causing these fatalities, they know the effectiveness of their approaches to law enforcement, but none of that is in the public domain," AAA managing director Michael Bradley said.
On Friday, October 13, government MPs along the South Coast touted road funding commitments. In Whitlam, Stephen Jones announced nearly $1 million for upgrades to Bass Point Tourist Road in Shellharbour, and almost $250,000 for road upgrades in Mittagong, in the Southern Highlands.
Further south, Fiona Phillips, touted upgrades throughout the disaster-hit Gilmore electorate that has been riddled with potholes, particularly since the heavy rains of 2022.
Funding commitments included $5m each in the Shoalhaven and Kiama to upgrade roads including Jamberoo Mountain Road and Illaroo Road in North Nowra.
No doubt some of these projects are worthy of funding, but whether they are accident blackspots or not, according to nationally consistent data, is unknown.
"If the government had a million dollars to spend on an upgrade of the Princes Highway, where would that be most effective, because that is what they use AusRAP for, and that needs to be in the public domain," Mr Bradley said.
The questions over data come as the road toll in NSW continues to climb, despite billions of dollars being spent on upgrading roads, and the state and Commonwealth governments renegotiating funding arrangements before the end of this year.
In the year to July 2023, the national road toll rose by 8 per cent, with 1250 people killed. Deaths rose by 20 per cent in NSW, while cyclist deaths rose by 37 per cent in the same period, according to AAA tracking of national road safety statistics.
The Mercury asked Illawarra federal MPs whether they would ensure federal funding contingent on the release of state-controlled road safety statistics.
Whitlam MP Stephen Jones and Cunningham MP Alison Byrnes issued identical statements, saying road safety was a shared responsibility.
"The Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan is supported by each state and territory governments as well as local governments through the Australian Association of Local Governments and the Federal government," they said.
"The Albanese Government has made improving road safety data one of two guiding principles of the National Road Safety Action Plan 2023-24.
"The Action Plan includes measures to progress the development of a nationally consistent, shared set of road safety data. This includes a commitment by the Australian Government to develop a National Road Safety Data Collection and Reporting Framework and minimum national data set."
Gilmore MP Fiona Phillips, who sits on the NSW black spot consultative committee, did not respond to questions.
NSW Roads Minister John Graham also did not respond before deadline.
As roads become another political football, Mr Bradley said the first step was having publicly available, accessible data.
"We need to work out if you had $1 extra to spend on saving a life on the Princes Highway, where should you put an extra rumble strip, where do you put an extra centreline, where do you put an extra overtaking lane," he said.
"You can't prevent the crashes of the future until you analyse the crashes that are happening today."
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