Baseline Research Program

The MUARC Baseline Research Program

Created by the Victorian Government and Monash University in 1987, MUARC’s initial mandate was to undertake research into issues relevant to Victoria’s road safety policy formulation. At that time, the State’s annual road deaths had plateaued at 750 and a 12-fold serious injury record persisted through the 1980s. This unconscionable burden of injury motivated the establishment of MUARC and subsequently led to the evidence-based strategic approach to reduce loss of life and serious injury that has become the hallmark of Victoria’s Road Safety Strategy.

Through its Baseline Road Safety Research Program, MUARC has driven a core program of internationally respected, high-impact research through an integrated network of Victorian government agencies responsible for road safety: Road Safety Victoria (part of Department of Transport Victoria), the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS), Victoria Police, and the Department of Health (DOH). The MUARC model has underpinned an impressive, coordinated and long-term history of advances in road safety policy and programming. There are no other comparable safety research partnerships anywhere in the world.

Fundamental to MUARC’s approach is its high-level stakeholder engagement. Ongoing communication and collaboration with project partners, industry, government and end-users throughout the life-cycle of Baseline Research projects is an essential element for effective research design and knowledge translation. This practice is demonstrated in the structure and processes of MUARC’s Program which maintains open dialogue between researchers and project partners, from research conception to delivery, to ensure outcomes remain relevant and high impact.

Historically, the Baseline Program has concentrated on key problem areas identified in Victoria's crash data and addressed in the road safety strategy. Results from the research feeds directly into road safety strategy development and action plans stemming from the strategy. The program is overseen by the Victorian Government Road Safety Leadership Group, comprising nominated representatives of the partner agencies, in collaboration with MUARC's Baseline Program Manager.

The Baseline Road Safety Research Program partnership model has many benefits for the Victorian Road Safety Partners, for Monash University broadly and for MUARC. An innovative feature of the baseline model is the potential for integration of research findings into agency processes and policy. A reciprocal benefit is that MUARC researchers have a better understanding of the day-to-day challenges of the agencies, facilitating better alignment of the research programs to their work, multiplying the government investment and enabling more effective translation of the research into actions.

The collaborative road safety partnership forged between Monash and Victorian agencies has positioned Victoria at the forefront of road safety nationally, and has convincingly established MUARC as a world leader in the field.

Examples of current projects:

Workplace Road Safety

This research aims to apply a systems thinking perspective to:

  1. Identify 'best practice' in workplace road safety via literature review, mapping of control structures and analysis of the Victorian legislative framework, and
  2. Identify gaps in the current intervention(s) and opportunities for developing new intervention(s) via applying outcomes of (1) above, together with consultation with industry, the National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) and Road Safety Partners.

Evaluation of 40 km/h zones

Over the last couple of decades in Victoria, the speed limit has been reduced to 40 km/h on a range of different roads and areas under several different programs addressing strip shopping centre road segments, Melbourne City Council areas and local streets in the City of Yarra. This research project primarily aims to:

  1. Evaluate the effectiveness of reducing the speed limit to 40 km/h across all roads and areas where it has been implemented (excluding school zones), to determine in which environments and for which times of operation (full-time vs different hours of operation) it is most effective in reducing crashes.
  2. Investigate community attitudes towards 40 km/h speed zones.

Behavioural Adaptation to Advanced Driver Assistance systems (ADAS)

The primary objectives of this research focus on understanding characteristics of drivers with ADAS who use the technologies correctly, the barriers and facilitators to use and understanding how driving style or behaviour changes when using ADAS. Specific research questions include:

  1. What ADAS features are most popular with drivers?
  2. What proportion of drivers with ADAS use ADAS appropriately and correctly?
  3. How, when and where do drivers use or not use the ADAS equipped to their vehicle?
  4. What contextual factors influence ADAS use or non-use?
  5. Do drivers alter their driving style or behaviour when using ADAS, and if yes, how?
  6. Do drivers feel safer when driving an ADAS equipped vehicle?
  7. Do specific groups of drivers (i.e., older drivers, learner drivers) respond differently to ADAS?

Post-crash care - assessment of current state and opportunities for improvement

The research is relevant to the crash-involvement and care of all injured road users. Through an examination of the current state of post-crash response, this research aims to identify opportunities for system enhancements given current and likely future crash trends. The objectives include to:

  1. Describe the current post-crash response system, inclusive of its organisational structures.
  2. Using available crash data, identify where crashes occur through the lens of the provision of pre-hospital care (i.e., ambulance attendance) linking to Victorian Healthcare Networks.
  3. Identify, via consultation with key agencies/hospitals (metro, regional), opportunities for system improvement of delivery of post-crash response.

Examples of completed projects:

Addressing Outer Urban Road Safety in Metropolitan Melbourne:

The study identified road safety issues specific to Outer Urban Areas (OUAs) of Melbourne, and provided recommendations and estimated benefits of proposed strategies for addressing high priority areas.

Development of a resource allocation model for traffic enforcement

This research developed a method to estimate the crash reduction benefits of increases in each type of traffic enforcement applied to an appropriate road environment. Results of this analysis have informed the consideration of the potential for additional investment in enforcement as part of a review of the current Victorian road safety strategy.

Development and Analysis of a Comprehensive Data System to Understand the Occurrence, Severity and Risk Factors of Older Road User Crashes

By 2061 the proportion of Australian adults aged 65 years and over is expected to reach 22% from the current 15%, and the proportion aged 85 years and over is expected to reach 5% compared to just over 2% now. In anticipation of the growth in prominence of older road users as a road safety problem in Victoria, this project aimed to better understand the current trends in the occurrence, severity and associated costs of older road user crashes and associated risk factors, and to identify any emerging older road user issues. Outcomes from the research include identification of priorities for policy and programs to improve the safety of older road users and recommendations for additional data collection and linkages to enable more in-depth and comprehensive future investigation of older road user safety.

Pedestrian distraction and road trauma

The primary aims of the research program were to 1) Identify the main distractions for pedestrians, and to quantify their impacts upon safety, and 2) Identify and describe countermeasures to minimise the occurrence of pedestrian distraction and reduce its impact on road trauma for all road users. Outcomes included quantification of the extent of pedestrian distraction in Victoria and the suite of potential countermeasures to address the problem, which could be considered for implementation under future road safety strategies.

Illicit Drug Use and Road Safety

This program aimed to assess the impact of drug-use on road safety. The overall objective was to provide an understanding of the magnitude, and motivations for, drug use as it relates to drug-driving behaviour and to provide an evidence base for the development of a range of countermeasure options aimed at reducing the incidence of drug-driving/ riding in Victoria.