Fact sheet: Vulnerable road users

​Of the 1,106 people killed in road crashes in 2020, 138 were pedestrians (12%), 190 were motorcycle riders (17%) and 42 were cyclists (4%).

Who are vulnerable road users?

Vulnerable road users (VRU) are road users not in a car, bus or truck, generally considered to include pedestrians, motorcycle riders, cyclists, children 7-years and under, the elderly and users of mobility devices. In the event of a crash, VRUs have little to no protection from crash forces.

Personal mobility devices including e-scooters and e-bikes are becoming increasingly popular, coupled with motorised mobility devices to support persons with a disability and the frail or aged. Users of all of these devices are included in the VRU category and for the most part, people using wheelchairs, motorised wheelchairs and motorised mobility devices are classified as pedestrians. As data collection for personal mobility devices improves, greater insights into causality and the impact of these devices will be learned and support the design of the most effective interventions.

The speed a vehicle is travelling at is a major factor in the seriousness of a crash involving pedestrians and cyclists. It is estimated there is a 10% probability of being killed if struck at 30 km/h, but this rises to over 90% at 50 km/h.

Source: Jurewicz, Sobhani et al (2015) and based on Wramborg (2005)

Fatalities (2020) and serious injury (2018) by road user type[1]



Motorcycle riders


All road users

Fatalities (2020)

138 (12.5%)

190 (17.2%)

42 (3.8%)


Serious injuries (2018)

2665 (6.7%)

8624 (21.8%)

6960 (17.6%)


Note: All road users includes VRUs plus vehicle occupants (drivers and passengers)

Note: Serious injury data lags in timing with 2018 data the most up to date on national hospitalisations

Over the past decade serious injuries have increased for motorcycle riders and cyclists relative to pedestrians. This increase in the number of serious injuries may be due in part to more people taking up bike riding for a range of health, mobility and leisure reasons.

Change (percent) in fatalities and serious injury) by road user type: baseline 2008-10 to 2020 for fatalities, and 2018 for serious injuries[2]



Motorcycle riders


All road users

Fatalities (2020)





Serious injury (2018)





Motorcycle riders

Motorcycle riders are over-represented in fatal and serious injury figures, disproportionate to the number of registered motorcycles. Also, annual fatality rates per billion vehicle kilometres travelled are, on average, nearly 30 times higher for motorcycle riders than for vehicle occupants. Motorcycle riders make up only 5.7 per cent of registered passenger vehicles.[3]

In 2020, 190 motorcycle riders (including pillion passengers) were killed. Of these 83 (44%) died in single vehicle crashes.[4] 

In 2020, 106 deaths of motor bike riders (56 per cent) occurred in speed zones greater than 60 km/h, and 53 of those deaths (50 per cent) occurred in 100 and 110 km/h zones.


We are all pedestrians and most of us engage in pedestrian activity at some point during each journey. Pedestrians have limited protection (unlike bike and motorcycle riders, they do not wear safety equipment) and are the most vulnerable road users.

Pedestrians travel low distances in kilometres relative to other road users, yet comprise 13 per cent of all road fatalities in Australia. The majority of pedestrian fatalities involve a collision with a light vehicle. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to injury or death in a crash.

Pedestrian fatalities over the last 10 years have shown little progress in downward trends. The recent drop year to date needs more investigation as it may be more attributable to the impact of COVID-19 and reduced travel exposure for a large part of the reporting period.

The majority of all deaths of pedestrians occur in 50‑60 km/h zones.4 27 per cent of deaths in 2020 were at intersections.



Fifty per cent cyclist deaths occur in 50-60 km/h zones and 56 per cent occurred at intersections. 27 per cent were on higher speed roads (90 km/h and above), and 28 per cent involved a heavy vehicle.

There has been no reduction over the last decade for fatalities of cyclists. The estimated trend is flat.

There are fewer deaths of cyclists and pedestrians in 40 km/h and lower zones.




[1] BITRE, Road trauma Australia, 2020 Statistical Summary, Table 1.2; BITRE Hospitalised Injury Statistical Report, August 2021, Table 2 (with data sourced from Flinders University and AIHW).

[2] BITRE: Australian Road Deaths Database; Hospitalised Injury, Statistical Report, August 2021 (data sourced from Flinders University under an agreement with AIHW).

[3] CARRS-Q, Motorcycle Safety, Fact Sheet 2020.

[4] BITRE, Australian Road Deaths Database (May 2021).