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When will we take rural road safety seriously?

By March 29, 2019News, Safety

Two-thirds of the Australian population live in capital cities and metropolitan areas, but staggeringly more than half of the road fatalities occur on rural and remote roads. Despite this, the rural and remote road safety problem continues to receive limited attention.

It goes without saying that rural road crashes contribute substantially to the overall road toll in Australia. Analysing fatal crashes in Australia for the
years 2006-2010, new research has revealed some devastating details and trends about what is really happening on our rural roads:

5 chilling statistics from our rural roads:

  1. It is estimated that at least 700 people are killed annually in rural areas, with many thousands seriously injured.
  2. These crashes make up just under half of all fatal road crashes (46%) and fatalities (48%), despite less than a third (31%) of the Australian population living outside major metropolitan centres.
  3. Rural road crashes are not decreasing at the same rate as urban trends.
  4. In the year 2000, the per capita risk of dying or being hospitalised in a rural compared with an urban crash was 4.2 times and 2.3 times higher respectively.
  5. State by state breakdown of the crashes (New South Wales – 27%, Victoria – 22%, Queensland – 21%, Western Australia – 14%, South Australia – 8%, Northern Territory – 4%, Tasmania – 4%)

How do we change this?

Generally higher travel speeds are a major characteristic of rural road crashes that ultimately lead to fatality or serious injuries. Drivers are often driving on unfamiliar and unsealed roads for long periods of time, significantly raising their risk of a crash. So from a fleet perspective it’s about getting your drivers to slow down, take their time and educating them on the dangers.

It might involve getting your management to stop imposing unrealistic timeframes about service deliveries, meetings or deadlines to remove the rush factor that comes with most jobs. Implementing fatigue management policies to ensure your drivers stay alert and have regular breaks can also lower your overall risk.

A recent North Queensland study of hospitalised road users found that 30%
of rural drivers reported being distracted prior to the crash. Is your organisation contributing to these distractions? What can you do to limit these distractions?

Maybe there could even be a policy where your newest fleet vehicles are prioritised for rural driving, as these will be most likely to withstand the effects of a crash?

There’s no overriding solution but the data doesn’t lie – it’s time we all shared the responsibility of taking rural and remote road safety more seriously!


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