2018 National Road Toll: fewer road deaths, but worrying trends continue

82 fewer people died on Australian roads in 2018, however bad driver behaviour continues to be the biggest killer

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Last year saw 1144 deaths on Australia’s roads, 82 fewer than in 2017, with Victoria and Western Australia registering their lowest road toll since records began.

In Victoria, 214 people lost their lives on the road in 2018, compared to 259 in 2017. Officials credit a range of factors with this significant reduction in deaths, including a drop in high-speed accidents on rural roads from 156 in 2017 to 108.

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The number of single-vehicle and head-on crashes have also dropped across the state, but they remain the leading causes of fatal crashes in regional Victoria.

Credit for the reduction is spread between road safety campaigns, punitive measures and investment in roads infrastructure, including 1500km of flexible safety barriers.

“These stats show that our unprecedented investment into road safety infrastructure is heading in the right direction,” said Transport Accident Commission chief executive Joe Calafiore. “But there is still a long way for us to go in reaching zero lives lost and serious injuries on our roads.”

Across the border, New South Wales’ annual toll fell to 354 from a 2017 figure of 376. While that number is still unacceptably high, the state’s assistant police commissioner, Luke Grant, said he was encouraged by the fact that road safety message seemed to be getting through.

Speed-related crashes and fatalities from heavy truck crashes were down. However there were too many largely preventable accidents caused by poor driver behaviour, drug and alcohol impairment and people not wearing seatbelts.

Incredibly, failure to wear a seatbelt accounted for 27 percent of Queensland’s 246 road deaths, up from 26 percent in 2017 despite the Queensland Government’s vow to re-educate drivers about belting up.

“It almost beggars belief that, decades after the seatbelt safety message was first promoted far and wide around Australia, people still fail or forget to make the simple, life-saving choice to buckle up,” Transport Minister Mark Bailey said last year.

“While the problem is Queensland wide, it is more prevalent in regional Queensland, especially in Mt Isa, South West, Far North, Townsville, Capricornia and Mackay Police Districts.”

Queensland’s 246 fatalities were just one fewer than 2017, making it the third lowest annual road toll since its records began.

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South Australia saw a 20 percent reduction in roads deaths, the biggest drop in the country, with 80 people losing their lives compared to 100 in 2017.

Assistant Commissioner Paul Dickson told Nine News the fall could be attributed to a range of strategies put in place by police and other agencies that all impacted on road safety.

"There's no silver bullet here," he said. "But enforcement is obviously from our position a strong factor."

Australia's two territories were the only jurisdictions to record higher death tolls this year compared to 2017.

The Northern Territory saw a 61 percent spike with 50 fatalities recorded, up by 19, leaving authorities to ponder how to better get the road safety message across.

St John Ambulance NT operations manager Craig Garraway told the ABC the jump was "tragic".

"Police are doing everything they can to try and stop this stuff. But I don't know what more we can do," he said.

The ACT’s relatively low road toll jumped from just five in 2017 to nine last year, but was down on the previous three years.

Road toll                                2018       2017

  • National                          1144       1226
  • ACT                                     9             5
  • Northern Territory          50           31
  • New South Wales           354         389
  • Queensland                    246         247
  • South Australia               80          100
  • Victoria                            214         259
  • Western Australia          158         161


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