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 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: Transport for Victoria, the TAC, VicRoads, the Department of Justice, Victoria Police, and the Department of Health and Human Services. 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 translation. This practice is demonstrated in the structure and processes of MUARC’s core research program, called the ‘Baseline Research Program’. The Program relies on a well-defined approach to stakeholder management and communications skills. MUARC 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 Management Group, comprising nominated representatives of the partner agencies, in collaboration with MUARC's Baseline Program Manager.
The Baseline 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 integration of research 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:
Illicit Drug Use and Road Safety
This program aims to assess the impact of drug-use on road safety. The overall objective is to provide an understanding of the magnitude, and motivations for, drug use as it relates to drug-driving behaviour. The expected outcome is the development of a range of countermeasure options aimed at reducing the incidence of drug-driving/ riding in Victoria.
Improving Heavy Vehicle Safety
This project aims to understand past and likely future trends in heavy vehicle safety. The project will review the definition of a heavy vehicle and establish the available information to inform the analysis of heavy vehicle safety. A key outcome of the project will be the identification of current shortfalls in data collection to adequately inform heavy vehicle safety policy.
Pedestrian distraction and road trauma
The overall aims of the research program are 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. Expected outcomes are a quantification of the extent of pedestrian distraction in Victoria and the suite of potential countermeasures to address the problem, which can be considered for implementation under future road safety strategies.
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.