The annual report from the International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD) shows Australia’s road toll placed firmly in the middle of the pack when compared to other developed countries.
Data from the report, which was obtained in 2013, shows Australia’s road toll ranks us 15th from the 32 countries that participate in the Database with 5.1 deaths per 100,000 people.
It’s the same story when travel distances are considered, with Australia recording 5.0 deaths per one billion vehicle kilometres in 2013 - which again places us mid-pack.
Countries with more favourable road tolls than Australia include Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom, while Sweden leads the way overall with 2.7 deaths per 100,000 people.
Germany’s result of 4.1 - in a country with part open speed limits on its autobahns and with a road toll which is steadily improving - again puts Australia’s 110km/h or less speed limit on the majority of major highways (outside the Northern Territory) in the spotlight.
France, The Netherlands, Denmark and others, including overall leader Sweden, also have higher speed limits than Australia along with lower road tolls per 100,000 people.
The worst road toll per 100,000 belongs to Argentina with 12.3 deaths, ahead of Chile (12), the USA (10.3) and South Korea (10.1).
Directly ahead of Australia on the table is Finland (13th) and France (14th), while Austria, Canada and New Zealand were 16th, 17th and 18th respectively.
Australia’s road toll is continually improving, however, down 4.3 percent per year on average since 2010 and down 8.7 percent from 2012 to 2013. A further 2.6 percent improvement is predicted from 2013 to last year.
Our 2013 road toll is also a far cry from levels recorded in the last century, when 13.7, 22.3 and 30.4 people per 100,000 were killed on Australian roads in 1990, 1980 and 1970.
Delving deeper into the data reveals downward trends among pedestrian and cyclist deaths from 2000 to 2013, but with improvements of 36 and 35 percent respectively, they compare poorly with the 54 percent improvement in car-occupant fatalities.
Motorcyclist deaths also fell over the same period - down 22 percent - but this followed a rise in the death rate between 2000 and 2007.
All IRTAD countries have maximum blood/alcohol limits to tackle drink driving fatalities, ranging from zero in the Czech Republic to 0.8 g/l in Canada, the UK, the USA and others. Australia, again, is in the middle, with our 0.5 g/l blood/alcohol limit matching the IRTAD average.
The use of seatbelts for front seat occupants ranges from 52 percent (Argentina) to nearly 100 percent in some IRTAD countries, but rear seatbelt use ranges from 15 percent (Chile) to 98 percent (Germany).
Helmets for motorcyclists are compulsory in all IRTAD countries except the USA, and most report near 100 percent compliance from riders.
Over 90 percent of road trauma occurs in low to middle income countries.
The IRTAD report stresses that only six percent of the world’s motorists are represented within its pages, with exact figures from the likes of China and India unknown.
Of the countries participating in the IRTAD report, an overall improvement in the road toll of 42 percent has been recorded between 2000 and 2013.
The greatest improvements belonged to Spain and Portugal, while strong improvements were also recorded by Denmark, France, Slovenia and Lithuania.
Australia’s performance alone over the same period was less impressive, with an improvement of 35 percent placing us ahead of just Canada, the US and last-placed Chile (which improved less than 10 percent).
Interestingly, the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 is believed to have had the greatest influence on the road toll before 2013, and Australia’s 2008 road toll was one of the lowest in our history.
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