Fact sheet: Evidence supporting the priority focus areas

The National Road Safety Strategy 2021-30 includes nine priority focus areas that data shows are areas where we can achieve the greatest reductions in road trauma over the next 10 years. These include infrastructure planning and investment, improving regional and remote road safety, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander road safety, vehicle safety,  heavy vehicle safety, safety for vulnerable road users, reducing risky road use and workplace road safety.

Infrastructure planning and investment

  • Speed limit reductions by as little as 10 km/h (where possible to implement, perhaps through demonstration projects) have provided the lowest cost, greatest value for reducing fatalities and serious injuries.
  • Effective road treatments targeting lane-departure crashes are audio-tactile line markings (ATLM), wire rope and other barriers and median treatments such as wide centre-lines (in some cases with median wire rope safety barriers), shoulder widening and sealing, and protection from roadside hazard treatments.
  • By 2018, deaths as a result of single vehicle crashes (the majority of which are run off road) reduced by 18.4 per cent and head-on crashes by 26.7 per cent, compared to the baseline set for the National Road Safety Strategy 2011‑20.

Regional road safety

  • Around two-thirds of road crash deaths are in regional and remote areas[1] of Australia, and around 55 per cent in regional areas alone.
  • About one third of hospitalised injuries from road crashes occur in regional and remote areas
  • Nationally, the number of road deaths in 2018 represented 4.5 per 100,000 people. The fatality rate is lower in major cities (2.2 per 100,000 people) and higher in regional and remote areas, with the highest rate in very remote areas (28.5 per 100,000 people).
  • A number of factors contribute to these differences, with speed a key factor, as a greater proportion of regional and remote crashes reflect higher speed zones.
  • In 2018, outside of urban areas,[2] around 470 people died on roads with speed limits of 90 km/h or higher, compared with 66 deaths in urban areas.
  • In 2018, 62 per cent of fatalities occurred in lane departure (run-off-road and head-on) crashes: 73 per cent in regional areas, 71 per cent in remote areas (primarily run-off-road only) and 41 per cent in major cities.

Remote road safety

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  • 116 of the 1,136 people killed in total in 2018 crashed in remote areas of Australia.
  • The risk to an individual of being killed on a road in a remote area is 11 times the risk of living in a major city.
  • The national fatality rate is 20.3 per 100,000 people in remote areas and highest in very remote areas, 28.5 per 100,000 people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander road safety

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bear a higher burden of road trauma; they are nearly three times more likely to die in road crashes.[3]
  • 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.[4]
  • 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.[5]
  • 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.[6] 

Vehicle safety

  • Older vehicles without newer safety features are more likely to be involved in fatal and serious injury crashes, and provide less protection for the occupants and others involved.
  • Vehicles built before 2000 made up 20 per cent of the fleet but featured in 33 per cent of fatal crashes. Newer vehicles built between 2011 and 2016 made up 31 per cent of the fleet, yet were involved in only 13 per cent of fatal crashes.[7]

Heavy vehicle safety

  • Around 18 per cent of all road crash deaths – about 210 in 2019 – involve a heavy vehicle.
  • While heavy vehicle crashes are lower relative to other road users, these crashes are more likely to result in a death or serious injury. Buses represent only a small proportion of these deaths.
  • While fatal crashes involving articulated trucks are slowly declining, fatalities in crashes involving heavy rigid trucks and buses have not reduced in the past decade.
  • The mass of a heavy vehicle[8] contributes a considerable amount of kinetic energy to a crash, with the other vehicle or vulnerable road user in the collision often enduring the worst of the impact.
  • Over the 10 years to 2018, fatal crash rates per billion vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) for crashes involving articulated trucks declined over 6 per cent per year, while rates for crashes involving heavy rigid trucks increased by 2.5 per cent per year.

Vulnerable road user safety


  • Of the 1,136 people killed in road crashes in 2018, 178 were pedestrians (16 per cent).
  • The probability of death or serious injury for unprotected road users like pedestrians and riders in a crash increases exponentially with increasing vehicle speed: there is an estimated 10 per cent probability of being killed if they are struck at 30 km/h, but this rises to over 90 percent at 50 km/h, the default speed limit in built-up areas.
  • The majority of all pedestrian deaths occur in 50-60 km/h zones.
  • There are fewer deaths of pedestrians in 40 km/h and lower zones. In urban areas, almost one-third of all road crash deaths are pedestrians.
  • In 2018, 21 per cent of all people killed on the roads were 65 and older, but 34 per cent of all pedestrians killed were 65 and older.
  • About 3 in 10 pedestrian deaths are at intersections.
  • More than one in 10 pedestrian deaths involves a heavy vehicle. 


  • Of the 1,136 people killed in road crashes in 2018, 35 were cyclists (3 per cent).
  • Just under half of cyclist deaths occur in 50-60 km/h zones.
  • There are fewer deaths of cyclists in 40 km/h and lower zones.
  • In 2018, 43 per cent of cyclist deaths occurred at intersections, and 34 per cent of all cyclist deaths involved a heavy vehicle.


  • There were 191 motorcyclists killed in 2018, representing 17 per cent of all road deaths.
  • On average, over 210 motorcyclists and their passengers die each year in crashes.
  • Annual fatality rates per billion VKT are, on average, nearly 30 times higher for motorcyclists than for vehicle occupants.[9]
  • While the total number of road crash deaths has declined across several road user groups over the last decade, there has been little change in the annual numbers of motorcyclist fatalities. Motorcycle registrations have increased by 3.3 per cent per annum. 
  • Notably, the trend in fatality rate for riders in the 65-74 years age group increased by an average of 11.1 per cent over 2010 to 2019, while the trend rates for all other age groups are reducing.

Reducing risky road use

  • Research shows the risk of involvement in a fatal crash doubles with every 5 km/h increase in speed over the limit in a 60km/h zone.[10]
  • Travelling at 65 km/h in a 60 km/h zone will save approximately 46 seconds over a 10 km stretch, but by saving those 46 seconds a person has doubled their risk of being involved in a fatal crash.
  • 16 per cent of serious casualty road crashes resulting in hospital attendance in Australia occur as a result of distracted driving.[11]
  • Drivers who slept for 4-5 hours in the past 24 hours are 4.5 times more likely to crash than drivers who slept seven hours or more. With just four hours sleep, this increases to 11.5 times more likely.[12]

Workplace road safety

  • In 2018, there were 144 fatalities reported as a result of injuries sustained in the course of work-related road transport activity.[13]
  • In total, 44 of these (31 per cent) were the result of vehicle collisions and a further 45 were related to vehicles in other ways, for example, falling from vehicles or being injured while loading vehicles, meaning a total of 62 per cent of all work fatalities were related to vehicles.
  • One problematic area of driving for work often neglected in risk and safety management is the so-called ‘grey fleet’.[14] Grey fleet is the proportion of personal vehicles used for work purposes and owned by the driver (or another entity), rather than being directly provided by the organisation employing that driver.
  • A number of contributing factors have been identified, such as inadequate journey planning, roads providing inadequate protection, vehicles providing inadequate protection, unauthorised drivers, unsafe drivers, non‑use or misuse of personal protective equipment, and inadequate post-crash response.[15] Crash reports do not always record (or report) that a vehicle was being used for work at the time of the crash.


[1] The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Australian Statistical Geography Standard Remoteness Structure divides Australia into five classes of remoteness on the basis of a measure of relative access to services: Major Cities (includes all capital cities except Hobart and Darwin, and includes other large cities), Inner Regional, Outer Regional, Remote, Very Remote.

[2] Urban areas are concentrations of urban development with a population of 10,000 or more, based on the Significant Urban Area structure of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard. Urban areas can be in major city or regional areas.

[3] Henley G & Harrison JE (2019) Injury of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to transport, 2010–11 to 2014–15. Injury research and statistics series no. 103. Cat. no. INJCAT 179. Canberra: AIHW.

[4] Statistics vary depending on state data.

[5] 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.

[6] 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.

[7] ANCAP (2017).

[8] Heavy vehicles include heavy rigid trucks (gross vehicle mass greater than 4.5 tonnes), articulated trucks (prime mover with a turntable device that can be linked to one or more trailers), and buses with at least 10 seats (including drivers’ seat).

[9] Table 2.6 and Table 2.7, Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (2020) Road Trauma Australia 2019 Statistical Summary.

[10] By the Centre for Automotive Safety Research.

[13] Safe Work Australia (2019) Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2018.

[14] National Road Safety Partnership Program (2017) Grey Fleet: Legal implications for businesses.

[15] Austroads (2018) Vehicles as Workplace, Research Report AP-R561-18.