Governments, insurance companies and service providers – in Australia and globally – stand to benefit from savings in future health costs if spending is directed to prevention of road trauma, a pioneering report has found.

The new report Investing to Save Lives: An Impact investment Case for Preventing Road Trauma was commissioned by FIA Foundation and written by Social Finance UK and Impact Strategist (Australia).

The report applies an impact investment model to different interventions to prevent road trauma in Australia and Cambodia, demonstrating the improved outcomes and financial returns that can be achieved by directing more capital to road safety. It reveals how investing in prevention can reduce the astronomical health costs resulting from road trauma in high income countries like Australia and the hidden costs borne by families in low income countries with limited access to health services, insurance protection or welfare.

Australian case studies focus on the Victorian road network and Queensland’s Bruce Highway. They demonstrate the powerful financial case for frontloading investment in safer road infrastructure, highlighting the link between investments in road improvements and saving lives, reducing serious injuries and achieving cost savings.

“Investing in accident prevention can save lives and money. These cases demonstrate in concrete terms how we can put investment models into practice to deliver better outcomes,” said Rosemary Addis, Executive Director of Impact Strategist and co-author of the Report.

Over 1.25 million people die on the world’s roads each year and many more are seriously injured. Road traffic injury is the leading cause of death for children and young people over age 10 in developed and developing countries alike. The report also identified a need to develop an evidence base that links interventions and outcomes more effectively, better aligning incentives between investment, cost savings and improved road safety for parties that stand to benefit. If SDG targets on road safety are to be met, these actions need to begin now to prevent the millions of avoidable human tragedies.

As part of the research, Rob McInerney, the CEO of the International Road Assessment Program, looked at what would happen if a range of preventative measures were installed on 400 kilometres of busy 100km/h roads in Victoria.

They included installing wire ropes, removing trees and adding central hatching or rumble strips to alert someone who was straying from a lane. The costs varied: barriers cost about $1 million per kilometre to install while audible rumble strips cost about $100,000 per kilometre.

These preventions cost $33.35 million over their lifetime, but the benefits more than outweigh the costs. The model found they would prevent 24 people from dying. The proposed improvements are projected to cost approximately AUD$28.4M in upfront capital investment and a total of AUD$33.4M over a twenty year investment period (including maintenance costs).

The Victorian Government recently announced an AUD$1B package of road improvements, driver training programs and research aimed at reducing the State’s road toll. The package includes AUD$340M to be spent on barriers along black spots on regional roads and AUD$60M to be spent on metropolitan accident spots with an overall goal of reducing road deaths to below 200 by 2020.

Unlocking capital and directing it to road safety measures has global potential. Many high-income countries face the challenge of maintaining a downward trend in road traffic deaths. In low and middle income countries, incidence of road trauma is higher and growing and there are a range of hidden costs – to health care systems, to insurers, to victims and their families and to wider society – of road trauma and its impacts that create and amplify cycles of poverty.

Samantha Cockfield, TAC Road Safety Manager, said: “The benefits of crash prevention extend far beyond saving lives. This report helps decision makers understand the economic benefits that come from investing in road trauma prevention and that those benefits are concrete and measurable.”