ROAD TOLL 2019

WHY WERE MORE AUS­TRALIANS KILLED ON OUR ROADS LAST YEAR? AND WHAT ARE VIC­TO­RI­ANS DO­ING SO WRONG?

Wheels (Australia) - - CONTENTS - ANDY EN­RIGHT

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

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