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Thu, 12 May 2022

Calls for targeted action as rural road toll exposed

Car accident
Image: Clark Van Der Beken

Researchers who analysed ten years of Australian road traffic deaths are calling for immediate reforms as the numbers reveal huge disparities among those killed on our roads.

Hannah Mason is an Associate lecturer at James Cook University’s College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences. She was the lead author of a study that examined all road deaths in Australia between 2006 and 2017.

“Other studies have shown road traffic fatalities are five times higher for those living in very remote areas, compared to their urban counterparts. Our study examined the trends and risk factors contributing to the inequities in rural motor vehicle collision (MVC) fatalities,” said Miss Mason.

She said the researchers found MVC fatalities rise with increasing remoteness.

“Females, children under 14 years, pedestrians, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are at a significantly higher risk of fatal collisions than their respective metropolitan counterparts. Road fatality rates in the NT, WA, and all rural and remote areas require immediate attention and targeted action,” said Miss Mason.

She said the demographic group with the highest risk of MVC fatality was children aged 0 - 4 in very remote areas, with children under 15 in remote and very remote areas 4.8 to 11.7 times more likely to die in a fatal MVC than their metropolitan counterparts.

“Risk was higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples than for non-Aboriginal peoples in outer regional, remote and very remote areas. The highest risk for males and females occurred in very remote areas,” said Miss Mason.

She said Australia's road fatality rate per 100,000 in 2017 ranked 17th of 35 nations, at 4.98 per 100,000.

“The rural fatality rates tell a different story at 16.45 deaths per 100, 000, higher than the national rates of many low-and middle-income countries including Cambodia, Jamaica and Columbia in that year.”

Miss Mason said solutions that worked in cities are often inadequate to improve rural road safety and targeted action was needed for regions in Australia with high MVC fatality rates and high-risk demographic groups.

“There is a need for a rural specific focus on road safety. Evidence-based prevention strategies should be developed within rural settings to suit the unique challenges of rural and remote road safety in Australia,” said Miss Mason.

Click on the link below for a copy of the paper:


Note: Rural and remote areas include all areas outside of major cities. For the purposes of this research, rurality was classified based on the Australian Statistical Geography Standard remoteness structure. The five categories used to describe rural areas are based on relative access to services: major cities, inner regional, outer regional, remote or very remote.


Hannah Mason
E: hannah.mason@jcu.edu.au