On The Road


Since the unbridled carnage of the mid-1970s, Australia has reduced its road traffic fatalities every year – to the point where we are now equal to, or better than, OECD standards. Seatbelts, road upgrades, safety awareness, driving culture and improved vehicle standards have all contributed. However, in the Northern Territory, road fatalities run at three times the national average.

When comparing Australia to the rest of the world, you have to be careful to compare like with like. There are the so-called “mechanised” countries and, conversely, “non-mechanised” countries. Australia, of course, falls into the former category, whereas a country like the Central African Republic does not.

As you’d expect, the mechanically challenged lands enjoy far fewer fatalities and lower risks than the automobile-bound ones. However, the fewer cars in such places often create carnage as they try to share roads with clumsy ox-carts and bicycles. The concept of mechanisation is clearly catching some developing countries by surprise. China, where the World Health Organisation claims 600 die each day, only passed its first road safety legislation last year.

The two commonly employed methods for measuring traffic accident statistics are the “rate” and the “risk.”

The Rate: road deaths per 100,000 of population.
The Risk: road deaths for every 100 million vehicle kilometres travelled.

A recent report by UK travel journalist Simon Calder stated: “Statistically, Australia is a much more dangerous place to drive than Britain; the fatality rate is nearly three times higher.” Sorry Simon, but that’s rubbish.

Australia and Britain are both “mechanised” OECD-standard countries with respectable accident records. Given that English drivers spend most of their time in traffic jams, it’s surprising they even get the chance to have fatal accidents. But for the record:

The Rate: Australia: 8.8. UK: 6.0. OECD Median: 10.3
The Risk: Australia: 0.9. UK: 0.7. OECD Median: 1.1

… and Australia’s figures include that wild variation in the Northern Territory.

Risky mechanised countries to be aware of: Turkey (7.3), Malaysia (2.6), Greece (1.9), Portugal (1.6), Korea (1.5), Poland (1.5) and USA (1.5).

Other Figures To Chew On:

Highest Death Toll: China (with a bullet) – heading for 250,000 per year
Highest Fatality Rate: Armenia (277) Lowest: Madagascar (0.2)
Highest Fatality Risk: Turkey (7.3) Lowest: Bhutan (0.08)

Safest Australian State (or Territory): ACT. Risk: 0.3 Rate: 3.1
Least Safe Australian State (or Territory): NT. Risk: 3.2 Rate: 27.7





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