Death Roads

Death-Road

Dramatic headline, but after coming out of a long weekend where there were 15 confirmed deaths on Australian roads, that’s exactly what it is. I shudder every time I turn the news on after a long weekend to see and hear all the horrific accidents that have happened in each state over such a short period of time. It’s not always the fault of the people that unfortunately get killed, but the fact is, someone caused the accident through their own neglect, not paying attention or plain lack of experience.

The message clearly isn’t getting through so I decided to look into it a little deeper and the results were disturbing. As a nation, driving habits and standards are actually getting worse over the years, not better. The statistics say actual road toll deaths are less year on year, but physical accidents are on the rise. So again, after researching further, if there are more accidents throughout the nation, but less deaths, it must suggest that it’s the equipment that we are using that is saving lives, not that we are better drivers.

My next contact to substantiate these findings was Russell White from Driver Safety Australia who is a recognised authority on Road Safety through his great work with Fatality Free Friday and a regular go to person for Current Affair programs. I asked him what the stats were regarding accidents – deaths vs injuries.

Russell stated that “the issue of road safety represents a number of challenges and dealing with it requires consistency and innovation.”

The Australian road toll in 1970 was 3789 people. Since that time, the road toll has steadily decreased. This is due to a number of engineering and law enforcement interventions.

From the engineering side, we saw the introduction of the Australian design rules, vehicle safety systems such as anti-lock brakes, traction control and airbags as well as better occupant protection and 5 star vehicle safety ratings. We have also seen significant improvements in our road network and enhanced road design.

Better trauma response and medical treatment have also played a major role in reducing the number of road fatalities.

From an enforcement standpoint, the introduction of random breath testing, improved speed detection and red light cameras have all contributed to the continual decrease in the road toll.”

Mr White also stated that “in 2014, the nation’s road toll was 1153, this was the lowest figure achieved since 1945. Whilst these interventions have clearly enhanced reductions in fatality rates, we have still yet to make any significant reduction in the number of serious crashes occurring.

It is important to remember that for every fatality, at least 20 to 30 people are seriously injured or hospitalised. Whilst we have made significant improvements to fatality rates, it is clear that the opposite is happening in terms of people being seriously injured.

Mr White detailed that “while it is important to continue to focus on achieving better roads, enhanced traffic enforcement and safer vehicles, we also need to take steps to address the human factors to help prevent crashes occurring in the first place.”

“The next great improvement in road safety will come from reducing crashes and injuries.”

The road safety industry must now focus on improving community awareness, road user attitude and better driver education and training”

Table 23 – Deaths by jurisdiction 1984 – 2013

Australia

1984 2,822
1985 2,941
1986 2,888
1987 2,772
1988 2,887
1989 2,800
1990 2,331
1991 2,113
1992 1,974
1993 1,953
Ave. trend change p.a. (%) -4.9
1994 1,928
1995 2,017
1996 1,970
1997 1,767
1998 1,755
1999 1,764
2000 1,817
2001 1,737
2002 1,715
2003 1,621
Ave. trend change p.a. (%) -1.9
2004 1,583
2005 1,627
2006 1,598
2007 1,603
2008 1,437
2009 1,491
2010 1,353
2011 1,277
2012 1,299
2013 1,193
Ave. trend change p.a. (%) -3.4

Rise in serious road injuries

The rate of people seriously injured due to road traffic crashes has risen according to reports released today by the Australian Institute of health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Trends in serious injury due to land transport accidents, Australia 2000-01 to 2008-09, shows that over the 9-year period, the rate of people seriously injured due to road traffic crashes increased from 138.3 to 156.7 per 100,000 people.

Over one-quarter of those seriously injured due to road traffic crashes sustained life-threatening injuries. ‘These cases increased by an average of 1.7% per year,’ said AIHW spokesman Professor James Harrison. ‘Rates rose more steeply for cases involving motorcyclists (6.8%) and pedal cyclists (6.9%). The rise was still sharper for cases involving males aged 45–64 years as motorcyclists (14.7%) and pedal cyclists (14.0%).’

People living in remote areas recorded the highest average annual increase in the rate of life-threatening injury due to road traffic crashes (5.8%), but there were small increases for all areas.
The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare.
Canberra, 18 June 2012

I have attached a video that I found from the American Institute IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) who ran a very interesting test with a 1959 Chevrolet Belair crash tested into 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. Normally you would think the big, all steel, full chassis Belair would be no match to the much smaller Malibu – however it’s a staggering outcome to see the technology with crumple zones, airbags and other modern crash structures and how they have made the cars so much safer. Further still since the 2009 model Malibu significant improvements have been in car safety technology. Watch the video below.

This leads to my argument that the cars and the roads have improved the road toll over the last 30 years and NOT the driving standards. In actual fact, with the increase in crash and injury rates, it shows that our driving standards are worse!

In my opinion, what has to be focused on from state and federal levels is driver education and driver training in general. It is way too easy to obtain a licence and there is not enough experience attached to that bit of paper that gives us the right to drive on the roads. The deaths and injuries have to stop!

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