Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bear a higher burden of road trauma and are nearly three times more likely to die in road crashes than other Australians, and are disproportionately represented in passenger and pedestrian fatalities.
In the Northern Territory around 50 per cent of road deaths and 30 per cent of serious injuries are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, yet they represent 30 per cent of the Northern Territory’s population.
In 20-40 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fatal crashes, the driver is unlicensed, a significantly higher number compared to other Australians.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also sustain consistently higher rates of pedestrian injuries than other Australians, across all ages, sexes and categories of remoteness.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander road users are 30 per cent more likely to be hospitalised due to a road crash than other Australians, leaving many with serious disability or long-term conditions, such as acquired brain injury or spinal cord injury.
Regional and remote areas
In addition to the acknowledged road safety issues associated with remote communities including the standard and condition of road infrastructure, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have key road safety challenges, including alcohol, impaired driving and the complex issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system.
In NSW, over 90 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander road deaths, and around 70 per cent of serious injuries, occurred in regional and remote areas.
Driver licensing and driver education
Many drivers from within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities face challenges accessing suitable roadworthy vehicles and licensed drivers for supervised practice, or accessing other licensing initiatives and culturally competent licensing enrolment and testing facilities. This is compounded by issues such as identity document provisions and requirements and lower literacy skills, making it difficult for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander drivers to obtain their learner license and progress through the Graduated Licensing Scheme.
A report released in 2013 identified that 43 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander license holders are L or P platers, indicating a high proportion of drivers are facing significant barriers to graduating to a full licence. Work has since been undertaken to address this.
Some states have had success with tailored provision of licensing and other related government services in remote areas, such as the Northern Territory’s Drivesafe Remote program and South Australia’s On the Right Track driver licensing program for Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) and Maralinga Tjarutja (MT) Lands.
The most effective education programs are collaborative, sustainable and evidence-based, and effectively involve the communities in development and delivery.
Creating parity: The Forrest Review (2014) on addressing the social, legal and economic barriers in the lives of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, recognised the importance of driver training and licensing as one of the most basic of work skills.
For road safety outcomes to be successful in reducing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in fatal and serious crashes, the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be addressed in reference to the National Agreement on Closing the Gap in conjunction with reform priorities, formal partnerships and community control to capitalise on synergies created through shared goals.
The Austroads’ report Improving Driver Licensing Programs for Indigenous Road Users and Transitioning Learnings to Other User Groups outlines proposals to mitigate barriers to driver licence ownership and retention by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other road users.
 Statistics vary depending on state data.
 Falster, M., Randall, D., Ivers, R, & Lujic, S (2013) Disentangling the impacts of geography and Aboriginality on serious road transport injuries in NSW. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 54: 32-8.
 Henley G & Harrison JE (2013) Injury of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to transport, 2005-06 to 2009-10. Cat. no. INJCAT 161. Canberra: AIHW.
 Table 23 NSW Centre for Road Safety (2017) Road Trauma Amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in NSW 2005-2015.
 Audit Office of NSW, Improving Legal and Safe Driving Among Aboriginal People, 2013.