About 10 per cent of people killed on Australian roads crashed in remote or very remote areas. The risk to an individual of being killed on a road in these areas is 11 times (the population rate comparison) the risk in a major city.
The national fatality rate for people in remote areas is 20.3 per 100,000 and 28.5 per 100,000 in very remote areas. This compares to 2.2 per 100,000 in major cities.
Why is there a greater risk on remote roads?
Most or all of the factors that result in higher numbers of fatalities in regional areas than major cities also apply to remote areas, notably higher speed roads along with fewer infrastructure safety features, lower levels of enforcement, fewer transport options and a higher proportion of risk taking behaviour. Other factors that increase risk on remote roads include:
- the very high proportion of unsealed roads
- vehicle overcrowding and a higher proportion of older, lower crashworthy vehicles
- lack of other transport options and services (which interacts with economic and social development barriers) and difficulties in accessing licensing and other services such as vehicle registration, inspection and maintenance services
- greater delays in receiving a positive post-crash emergency response
- travelling over longer distances, increasing likelihood of fatigue
- extreme climatic conditions creating challenges for road users and road managers
- higher levels of social and economic disadvantage.
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. This overrepresentation crosses regional categories, but there are particular issues with remote communities and access to licensing services and safe transport options.
Post-crash response times are longer in remote areas and this can be compounded by limited local access to hospital and surgical intervention. There is not yet sufficient evidence available to draw firm conclusions about the scope for prevention of death and serious injury from road crashes in Australia with quicker and more effective emergency responses.
Some deaths may be prevented and the consequences of some serious injuries may be reduced if methods for alerting emergency services could be improved (including use of automated alerts), response times reduced, medical interventions performed by highly-skilled practitioners and other immediate intervention measures introduced, such as reducing blood loss from traumatic injuries.
Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) recently launched its ANCAP RESCUE app to provide first responders with critical vehicle safety information including the location of in-vehicle hazards, facilitating safer and more efficient responses to crashes.
How can this be improved?
In 2015, the then Transport and Infrastructure Council published the National Remote and Regional Transport Strategy. One of its four objectives was to ensure transport infrastructure and services in remote and regional areas were sustainable and reflected the needs of local communities, transport operators, service providers and businesses.
Measures that can improve road safety in remote areas of Australia included:
- Safe System treatments on roads with more traffic and high risk roads in line with network safety plans
- supporting safe mobility for remote communities, through alternative community-based transport, child seat restraint programs, and connecting remote communities to health services through alternatives to private vehicles
- engagement from public and private sector groups to increase awareness of road safety and safe use of the remote road network
- encouraging remote road users to purchase safer vehicles using ANCAP and the Used Car Safety Rating program
- enhanced post-crash response measures
- investment in rest stops
- education and awareness of driver fatigue, travel planning and driver distraction measures.
 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.
 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.