ROAD TOLL 2019
WHY WERE MORE AUSTRALIANS KILLED ON OUR ROADS LAST YEAR? AND WHAT ARE VICTORIANS DOING SO WRONG?
Aren’t we supposed to be getting better at this? Another year the nation’s road toll went the wrong way
THE BALD FIGURES make for some sobering reading. In 2019, the number of lives lost on Australia’s roads jumped by 53 to a total of 1188, an increase of 4.7 percent compared to the previous year. Victoria’s figures were notably ugly, with 266 deaths in 2019, according to the state’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) – 53 up on 2018. Jaala Pulford, Victoria’s minister for fishing, boating, roads and the TAC, described the result as heartbreaking.
“It’s been a devastating year on Victoria’s roads with every loss of life someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife or friend who will not come home tonight,” she said.
“That’s why we’re cracking down on dangerous driving, building safer roads and working on the next road safety strategy – but every Victorian has a role to play, to stop speeding, to put the phone away and drive safely.”
New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia also registered more deaths than the year before, while Queensland, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT saw a dip in fatal road incidents.
Victoria nevertheless comes in below the Australian average in terms of road deaths per 100,000 population. Across Australia, that figure stands at 4.2 deaths per 100,000. In the ACT it is lowest at 1.4, with Victoria at 4.0, Queensland at 4.3, New South Wales at 4.35, Tasmania at 6.0, Western Australia at 6.3, South Australia at 6.5 and the Northern Territory being the significant outlier at 14.2.
Drill down into the figures and it’s clear that there’s still a disparity between urban and rural deaths. While
Melbourne’s population has increased by 60 percent since 1989, urban road deaths in that period have decreased by 70 percent. In that same period, regional Victorian road deaths have merely halved. This year’s figures show a similar trend in New South Wales, with the country roads with limits above 80km/h proving most dangerous.
“Local people are dying on local roads, it’s not people driving through the state,” said NSW Police Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander, Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy.
While any loss of life is a tragedy, the longer term trend remains down, as indicated by the graph (right). Whether a greater penetration of 5-star ANCAP vehicles can outweigh a growth in drivers distracted by technology is a question that remains to be answered.
In the meantime, there are some small consolations. New South Wales saw a historic low (14) of deaths among drivers in the 17-20 age group, traditionally a high-risk demographic.
Most fatal incidents in Victoria were attributed to fatigue, with the majority being single-car crashes where drivers have either left the road to the left, or crossed the road and ended up striking an object on the other side.
“Clearly a new strategy is needed for reducing the number of people driving while drowsy,” said Monash University’s Associate Professor Clare Anderson, from the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health. “Fatigue is one of the biggest causes of road fatality, it has to be targeted alongside speed, distraction and alcohol.”
The TAC minister for Victoria described the result as heartbreaking