Australian comparison site Savvy has shared data about Australia’s road toll, sourced from Bitre.gov.au. Each year, Australia replaces their vehicle fleet with newer vehicles, featuring increased safety technology and our road rules, particularly speed zones are often adjusted in an attempt to reduce the road toll.. so how are we going?
Australia’s national road toll up to April 2023 stood at 1,204, an increase of 4.3% compared to the same time last year.
The highest recorded fatality rate for this point in the year was 1,262 back in 2016. There are a couple of ways to interpret this. You could look at the figure in 2023 is down from the 10-year high, but barely, so it’s hardly something to celebrate. Another way to look at it is to layer in the growth in Australia’s population over that time, so an increase would be expected.
To get outside this, the dataset provides data on the Annual Fatality Rate Per 1000,000 Population. In this chart, we see the data graphed since 2013 and it shows a minor improvement, but certainly not anything like the reduction we need.
The peak fatality rate (per 100k population), was 5.3 in 2016, while the low was 4.3 in 2020, perhaps not surprising given a lot less driving occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. If we look at the time since then, we had an increase in 4.4 in 2021, then 4.6 in 2022, so if we focus on the last 3 years, the story is getting worse, not better.
Every year, more 5-star rated vehicles are sold in Australia, replacing older vehicles with much less safety technology, so the question is, if we had the same fleet of cars, what would happen to the number?
What is good to see, is that we have made long-term progress, with our fatality rate per 100,000 population back in 1990 was 13.7 which feels incredibly high by today’s standards.
There have been many vehicle safety technologies introduced in Australia after 1990, some of the most notable include:
- Front airbags: Front airbags were first introduced in Australia in 1991, and have since become a standard feature on most new vehicles. They help to reduce the risk of serious injury or death in frontal collisions.
- Side airbags: Side airbags were introduced in Australia in 1998, and offer protection from side-impact collisions. They have been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of serious injury or death in these types of crashes.
- Electronic stability control (ESC): ESC was introduced in Australia in 2003, and helps to prevent vehicles from skidding or rolling over. It has been shown to be effective in reducing the number of fatal and serious crashes.
- Anti-lock braking systems (ABS): ABS was introduced in Australia in 1991, and helps to prevent wheels from locking up during braking. This allows drivers to maintain control of their vehicles even in emergency situations.
- Child safety seats: Child safety seats were first introduced in Australia in 1977, and have since become a standard feature in most new vehicles. They help to protect children from serious injury or death in the event of a crash.
In addition to these technologies, there have been many other safety innovations introduced in Australian vehicles in recent years. These include rear-view cameras, blind spot monitoring systems, lane departure warning systems, and adaptive cruise control. These technologies are helping to make Australian roads safer for everyone.
Here are some of the latest safety features that are becoming increasingly common in new cars:
- Automatic emergency braking (AEB): AEB can detect if a collision is imminent and automatically apply the brakes to help prevent the crash.
- Lane keeping assist: Lane keeping assist uses cameras or sensors to detect if a car is drifting out of its lane, and can provide steering assistance to help the driver stay in lane.
- Adaptive cruise control: Adaptive cruise control uses radar or cameras to detect the speed of the car in front of you, and automatically adjusts your car’s speed to maintain a safe distance.
- Traffic sign recognition: Traffic sign recognition uses cameras to detect traffic signs, and can warn the driver if they are speeding or ignoring a sign.
How do actually reduce the road toll?
Australia uses enforces its road rules pretty strictly, while also increasing safety standards for new vehicles via the Australian Design Rules. Australia has also invested in safe driving awareness campaigns but it seems none of this is really having the desired result.
There really is only one option to realistically have a chance at reducing the road toll to zero. That option is to relieve humans of their responsibility of driving and head towards a future of autonomous vehicles.
Despite all the warnings and fines, many drivers simply can’t obey the speed limits, or get off their phones in order to pay adequate attention to the ever-changing environment around them. Being distracted, combined with being drunk, high or fatigued are all key elements of where humans fail at operating a vehicle safely.
Autonomous driverless services are already active in parts of China and America and Australia should welcome these services to Australia as they hold the most promising opportunity to reduce the road toll.
Other noteworthy points from the Australian road toll dataset are:
- Male drivers between the age of 40-64 years old are statistically most likely to suffer a fatality
- 7% increase of Australian road fatalities among women over previous 12 months
- Most road deaths are recorded by the drivers of vehicles (48.6%)
- Australia is ranked 20th out of the 36 OECD countries for road fatalities
When it comes to the state-based breakdown, we have the following data.
New South Wales road toll
The NSW road toll for the last 12 months to April 2023 was 296 fatalities, up 2.1% from last year on 290. This was broken down into 213 road deaths among males and 83 among females – an 18.6% increase on last year. The ten-year low was in 2021 with 279; ten year high in 2018 recorded 406 deaths.
The majority of road users involved in a fatal incident were vehicle drivers, at 136 (45.9%), followed by pedestrians (20.6) and vehicle passengers (15.5%).
Again, the highest age demographic represented in the NSW road toll was the 40 to 64s with 81. This was followed by 17 to 25s on 54 and 26 to 39s on 52.
Victoria road toll
Victoria recorded 266 road deaths over the 12 months to April 2023, a 10.4% increase over 2022. 195 of these were men, a 14.7% change on the previous year. 65 women lost their lives to fatal road accidents, an 8.5% decrease over 2022. The ten-year high was in 2017 with 280, and the ten year low in 2021 with 200.
45.5% of all fatalities were recorded among vehicle drivers. 18.8% of fatal accidents were among motorcyclists, followed by vehicle passengers on 16.2%.
The Victorian Road toll again showed that the 40 to 64 age cohort showing the highest proportion of road fatalities with 74 recorded for 2023. This was followed by 26 to 39s on 64, and 17 to 25s on 46.
Queensland road toll
Queensland recorded 280 deaths resulting from road accidents in 2023, a 1.1% increase across the board. 65 women lost their lives, a 3% decrease from the previous year. 214 men lost their lives, which resulted in a 2.4% increase over the previous years.
Far and away the largest demographic represented in the Queensland road toll was the 40 to 64s on 93, with the results skewing toward 26 to 39s (70) and 17 to 25s (53).
46.8% of fatalities among road users were vehicle drivers, with 26.8% being motorcyclists, and 14.3% as vehicle passengers.
Northern Territory road toll
The NT recorded 34 road deaths up to 2023, down from 45 the previous year, a net decline of 24.4%. This was slightly above the ten year low of 31 and far below the ten year high of 52.
The highest demographic of road users recording a fatality were vehicle passengers on 32.4%, followed by pedestrians on 26.5%, with drivers coming in at third on 23.5% – an anomaly among the usual statistics.
However, the ages stayed relatively the same, with 10 deaths in the 17 to 25s and 40 to 64s, and 6 in the 26 to 39s.
Tasmania road toll
There were 43 road fatalities in Tasmania to April 2023, a decrease of three over last year (6.5%.) The majority were men (31 vs 12 women.)
The 26 to 39 and 40 to 64 cohort recorded 10 deaths each, with 17 to 25s and over 75s recording six deaths, the top demographics for road fatalities in Tasmania.
55.8% of Tasmanians that lost their lives on the road were vehicle drivers, followed by 18.6% being passengers and 16.3% being motorbike riders.
Western Australia road toll
178 Western Australian road users lost their lives over the last 12 months to April, a 12.7% increase over last year. 127 men lost their lives – the same amount as last year. 51 women died in WA due to road accidents, a 64.5% increase.
The ten year high in WA road deaths was in 2017 with 188, with the lowest recorded in 2020 with 147.
The 40 to 64 age demographics had the highest proportion of road deaths in WA on 66, with 26 to 39s recording 42, and 17 to 25s recording 30.
48.9% of fatalities were recorded among vehicle drivers, followed by 23% being motorcyclists, and 16.9% as vehicle passengers.
South Australia road toll
The South Australian road toll saw 92 people lose their lives to traffic accidents, an increase of 7% over the previous year. The ten-year high was recorded in 2020 (110) and the ten-year low in 2017 (82). 62 were male, a decrease of 7.5%. 37 women lost their lives on SA roads, an incredible 57.9% increase over 2022 (only 19 deaths recorded.)
The age bracket with the highest proportion of deaths was again the 40 to 64s with 32, almost double the equal second bracket (26 to 39s and 17 to 25s) on 18 respectively.
53.3% of deaths by road user were drivers, 16.3% by motorbike riders, and 13% being pedestrians.
Australian Capital Territory road toll
The ACT recorded 15 road deaths over the previous 12 months from April, an increase of 36.4% and a ten year high the lowest ten-year stats occurred in 2018-2019, with six deaths recorded.
Equal numbers of drivers and passengers lost their lives (46.7%) with the remaining death cause unknown. The majority of road fatalities were among the 17 to 25 demographic on 7, followed by 40 to 64s on 5.