This year was the deadliest on Australia’s roads in five and a half years, with the road death toll reaching 1,253 – the highest since 1,270 people were killed in the 12 months to March 2018, according to the nation’s peak motoring body.
Upon releasing the data, the Australian Automobile Association accused governments of kicking road safety “down the road” after federal, state and territory transport ministers met a fortnight ago to discuss their next five-year partnership on road infrastructure projects but failed to make progress on data transparency when it comes to road deaths.
“Month after month, road deaths keep rising, and we lack the information needed to identify the reasons for this deadly trend and to develop the most effective measures for reducing crashes,” said AAA’s managing director, Michael Bradley.
“The states and territories have crucial data on the quality of Australian roads, the causes of crashes, and law enforcement patterns – but they are not sharing this information.”
AAA’s data shows road deaths increased nationwide by more than 6% compared with last year.
The sharpest increase was in South Australia, which rose by 61.4% from 70 deaths in 2022 to 113 deaths in 2023. In Victoria road deaths increased by 14.5%, from 249 in 2022 to 285 2023.
In New South Wales road deaths increased by almost a quarter, from 286 to 354. The country was left in shock after 10 people were killed in a bus crash in June while returning home from a wedding in the Hunter Valley.
The remaining state and territories recorded a reduction in road deaths, with the largest decline in the Australian Capital Territory, which saw a drop of 85%, from 20 deaths in 2023 to three in 2023. In Tasmania the number of road deaths dropped by 44.4%, from 54 to 30.
In the Northern Territory road deaths dropped by 45.1%, from 51 to 28. The territory is plagued by the ongoing toll of pedestrian deaths, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 times more likely to be hit and killed by a car than a pedestrian in any other part of Australia.
Bradley said governments releasing the data was not only important for road safety but to give greater transparency to funding decisions.
“The commonwealth allocates about $10bn a year to state land transport infrastructure funding, yet road deaths keep rising,” he said. “If crucial road safety data remains secret, there’s no way of knowing whether funding is being used to make roads safer or to win votes in target electorates.”