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The 2016/17 Australian Road Toll – An Overview

Every year, the Australian Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics publish an in-depth review of the road toll for the previous year. The most recent available report was published in 2017 for the 2016 calendar year and provides the most up-to-date picture of trends in the Australian road toll at a national level.

Here are some of the key findings from the report.

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Increases in road death rate

After a sustained period of decline in the number of road deaths in Australia, 2016 marked a reversal of this trend. The number of deaths per 100,000 population in 2016 was 5.37, which was 6% higher than the rate for 2015. In the decade prior to 2016, the number of road deaths per 100,000 population had been decreasing at a rate of 4.4% a year.

Increase in fatal crashes

There was also an increase in the number of fatal accidents in 2016, with 1,201 crashes resulting in a road death. This represented a 9.1% increase over the previous year. The number of fatal crashes in 2016 was nevertheless much lower than the 1,453 fatal crashes recorded in 2007, and the overall trend since that year is a 2.7% annual decrease in fatal road crashes.

Male deaths

The number of men killed on Australian roads is much higher than the number of women, but has been declining since 2007. In 2015, there was a slight increase in the number of male deaths on the road, and in 2016 there was another, larger, increase in male deaths. This marked the first time since 2007 that there have been two consecutive years of increases in the male road toll.

Female deaths

The number of female deaths on Australian roads remains low relative to male road deaths, with around one female fatality for every three male fatalities. While there was a small decrease in female road deaths in 2016 compared to 2015, this statistic remains quite stable, with the last major decrease in female road deaths recorded in 2010.

Driver age

There were increases in fatalities for four of the five driver age groups tracked in statistical reports, with only drivers aged 65-74 seeing a decrease in fatalities. The steepest increase in fatalities was among drivers aged 40-64, although young drivers aged  17-25 were not far behind, with road deaths among this age group increasing by 17% year on year and reversing decreases since 2012.

States & territories

Only a handful of states and territories saw decreases in their local road tolls in 2016. These included South Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland all saw increases in the road toll as part of a trend stretching back three to four years. In Western Australia, the increase in the road toll reversed all annual decreases recorded since 2010.

Road user groups

In 2016 there were increases in fatalities among three of the five road user group categories. Fewer passengers and pedal cyclists died on Australian roads than in 2015. However, more drivers, motorcyclists and pedestrians passed away as a result of accidents than in 2015, with motorcyclist deaths increasing by 22% compared to the previous year.

Heavy vehicles

The road toll from crashes involving heavy vehicles remained relatively stable. There was an annual decrease in the number of fatalities in accidents involving articulated trucks. This was offset by an increase in the number of fatalities from accidents involving heavy rigid trucks, while there was a slight increase in deaths from bus accidents.

Putting it together

Statistics from the 2016 road toll will be of concern for Australian public authorities, as these have in many instances reversed stable decreases in the road toll across many segments considered in reporting. While year on year increases have not been unusual within the context of an overall downward trend in road fatalities, many segments have seen increases in fatalities for a period of two to four years. This, in turn, means that some of the progress in reducing the Australian road toll that has been made over the last two decades is at risk of being reversed.

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