Nearly 70% of Australians surveyed think that our roads have gotten more dangerous in the last decade and nearly a quarter (23.8%) of the respondents think the roads are much more dangerous. But is this actually the case?

Do you think roads have gotten safer or more dangerous over the last decade?

National results

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that road accident fatalities in Australia have actually decreased in the past decade by 14.7%1. And to make this reduction in fatalities even more impressive is the fact that there are now more vehicles travelling on our roads than ever before. In the decade from 2008 to 2017, the total number of vehicle registrations increased by 23%1.

So it could be more accurate to say that our roads are ranked between ‘somewhat less dangerous’ and ‘much less dangerous’ than they were a decade ago, but only 23.4% of respondents felt that Australian roads are safer now.

Interestingly, 8.2% of all the respondents said that they didn’t feel that Australian roads were dangerous at all. While the reality of the safety of our roads might be better than the average person might think, they are by no means perfect, with 12,920 fatalities happening on our roads since 20082.

2008 374 303 328 99 205 39 75 14 1437
2009 454 290 331 119 191 63 31 12 1491
2010 405 288 249 118 193 31 50 19 1353
2011 364 287 269 103 179 24 45 6 1277
2012 369 282 280 94 183 31 49 12 1300
2013 333 243 271 98 162 36 37 7 1187
2014 307 248 223 108 183 33 39 10 1150
2015 350 252 243 102 160 34 49 15 1205
2016 380 290 241 86 193 37 45 11 1293
2017 393 254 248 101 159 36 31 5 1226

New South Wales and South Australia were the only states to see increases in the amount of fatalities from 2008 and they were not large increases, with New South Wales seeing a 5% increase and South Australia a 2% increase. Neither of these states however reported above the country’s average response rate though of thinking the roads were more dangerous now.

Do you think roads have gotten safer or more dangerous over the last decade?

The Northern Territory and the ACT saw their fatality numbers more than halved in the decade from 2008, which justified the Northern Territory’s well below average response of only 40% of respondents thinking the roads were more dangerous. Interestingly, the Northern Territory had 50% of respondents say that the roads were not dangerous at all, compared with the national average of 8.2%.

The Northern Territory, while having the smallest percentage of Australia’s population (1%), had 3.5% of all Australian road fatalities in 20172. The rate of road deaths per 100,000 vehicles is also four times higher in the Northern Territory than the national average3.

The ACT on the other hand, had the highest average response with 81.8% of those surveyed thinking the roads were more dangerous now, which contradicts their dramatic reduction in road fatalities in the last decade.

When looking at the results broken down by age group, an interesting trend emerged. 71.7% of younger drivers aged between 18-24 said they felt the roads were more dangerous now than they were in the preceding decade. This was in spite of the fact that most of the respondents would not have been driving themselves in the preceding decade, or only driving for two or less years for the older respondents. This could indicate that these drivers have only become aware of potential dangers on the road after having gotten their license and started driving.

Do you think roads have gotten safer or more dangerous over the last decade?


The ‘more dangerous’ response rates dropped down to 63.5% for the respondents aged 25-34 and then down again to 60.3% for the 35-44 year olds, which was the lowest percentage for any age group. This suggests that growing familiarity with driving increases the driver’s confidence in handling dangerous road situations, therefore changing the way they perceive how dangerous the roads actually are.

The older age groups however, were more likely to respond that they felt the roads were more dangerous now than they were a decade ago. Both 71.6% of the 45-54 year olds and the 55-64 year old age groups said that roads now were in the ‘more dangerous’ categories. The over 65 age group also had the highest percentage of respondents feeling that the roads are more dangerous now than they were a decade ago at 74.1%.

A potential reason for this higher response rate from older drivers could be the fact that there are notably more vehicles travelling on our roads now. This might be more perceptible to older drivers who have the most experience driving on Australian roads.

Do you think roads have gotten safer or more dangerous over the last decade?


Women were also 12% more likely than men to think that the roads have become more dangerous to travel on. They were also on average 4% less likely than men to respond that the roads posed no threat and were not dangerous at all.

So what potentially is influencing the public’s perception that roads are actually getting more dangerous?

There is a common perception that people are becoming more pessimistic than they were before and this misconception about the safety of our roads could be just one case of this.

Worldwide, trends in overall lifestyle and health are in better shape than at any other point in human history, child mortality is lower, education and literacy rates are higher than ever before and less extreme poverty4. But still people all over the world are under the impression that the world is in the worst state it has ever been in.

There is the popular theory that the media are to blame, that they put too much emphasis on the negative aspects and details of modern life without highlighting the good5. ‘Bad news sells’ and ‘if it bleeds it leads’ can seem to be the mottos of every newspaper, news program and article that appears on social media. Whereas positive developments and improvements are often gradual and slow to happen. With the media’s focus on single events, the good news can often be overlooked.

But the important takeaway is the fact that our roads are in fact safer than they were a decade ago thanks to the implementation of more comprehensive road safety plans being carried out across the nation. And with the steadily decreasing trend of fatalities averaging a 2% reduction each year6, there are strong indications that this decrease in fatalities will continue.


This survey was conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Budget Direct in May 2018. All figures are from this research unless stated otherwise. The survey was conducted online with a total sample size of 1,000 weighted and representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+).

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