Last Updated: January 2019. Latest available data from March 2018.

Quick Stats

  • 1,226 people were killed in road related deaths, over 3 people a day
  • 34% of fatal crashes occur in major cities
  • 1 in 10 crashes resulted in multiple deaths
  • 30% of accidents that occurred as a result of the car running off the road
  • Single vehicle accidents were the most common accident resulting in death

Australia has seen over 190,000 fatalities since accurate car record keeping commenced in 1925. Every year since 1970 has seen a decrease in the road death toll with numbers dropping from 3,798 in 1970 to 1,226 in 2017. This decrease can largely be attributed to stricter road safety laws and measures put in place by transit authorities. While this decrease is good news for all Australians on the road, the death toll is still incredibly high, especially on an international scale.

Australia vs Global

The global average of road fatalities is 17.4 deaths per 100,000 people, with lower income countries suffering a higher prevalence and higher income countries seeing lower rates of fatalities. While Australia’s number of road fatalities is roughly half of those in the US, our fatality rate is nearly twice as bad as the UK’s. Australia was previously ranked 14th out of 34 OECD countries for deaths per 100,000 but has since slipped to 17th place as other countries see greater reductions in fatalities each year. Europe has some of the lowest fatality rates in the world largely in thanks to measures put in place by the European Road Safety Charter.

Deaths per 100,000 People


In the past 30 years road fatalities have dropped by 50% in Australia. The largest reductions were in passenger related fatalities, which are down by 72% over the 30 year period, followed by pedestrians, down 63% and cyclists down 63% over the same time period. Since 1987 Australia’s fatalities per 100,000 people dropped from 17 to 5.4. The Northern Territory saw a significant reduction from 53.1 road fatalities per 100,000 people to 18.4 but still stands as the state with the highest fatality rate in the nation. The ACT has seen the most success in reducing their fatalities from 13.6 to 2.3 fatalities per 100,000 people.

In the last decade Australia has seen a 24% increase in the total count of vehicles registered, meaning that there a lot more cars on Australian roads. Since 2008 motorcycle registrations increased by 62% and light commercial vehicles increased by 36%. These increases in vehicles on the road make the reduction in road fatalities all the more impressive. However there is still a lot of work to be done to reduce the statistics further.


Rates of injuries sustained in car accidents have been on the rise since 2001. There was an 8.6% increase in the number of hospitalised injuries in the time period from 2006 to 2013. Injuries sustained in road accidents are 27 times higher than those of fatality rates and there are concerns that this number will continue to rise. One possible cause for the increase in injuries is that the focus of transport safety technologies in Australia is on life saving strategies rather than injury prevention. Reducing the severity of accidents on the road could be contributing to the reduction in fatalities but could be also responsible for the increase in injuries.

Injuries account for 40% of the total social cost of roach crashes in Australia with money allocated between disability related costs, medical expenses and out of work productivity costs. In 2016 the total costs came in over $33 billion, a 22% increase from 2006. It is hard to maintain accurate injury reporting across all states and territories, as some road crash injuries are not reported at all, treated only by paramedics or private doctors or are not admitted to hospital.

Injuries 2016 10,950 7800 6200 3500 2200 560 520 570 32,300

Heavy Truck Involvement

Heavy truck accidents cause considerable more damage than normal vehicle accidents. Contributing factors are the time it takes trucks to respond to unexpected road conditions because of their total weight. It takes a truck considerably more time to slow down and stop than it does for a regular vehicle.

Over 80% of crashes with heavy truck involvement are classified as multiple vehicle and only 10% are counted as single vehicle incidents. Comparing this to the statistic that 45% of non-truck involved road crashes are classified as single vehicle, reveals that truck drivers are much less likely to crash on their own than normal car drivers. 15% of all road crash fatalities and 4% of all road crash injuries involve heavy trucks, but only 20% of those crashes are attributed as the truck driver’s fault, demonstrating that on average truck drivers are safer drivers than other vehicle drivers.

By State

Analysis of state by state statistics reveal that the number of fatalities per state is fairly consistent with the size of the population of each state, indicating the number of cars on the state’s roads could be a factor in crashes. NSW, the state with the highest population in Australia (32%), saw the highest number of fatalities in each year from 2008-2017 with 29% of all fatalities in that time period. However the ACT had the lowest number of fatalities from 2008-2017 at 0.9% despite having the second lowest population (1.67%). The Northern Territory, which has the lowest population of any state or territory at just 1% of the population, had 3.5% of all fatalities in Australia from 2008-2017.

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 1151
2015 350 252 243 102 160 34 49 15 1205
2016 380 290 251 86 193 37 45 11 1293
2017 393 254 247 101 159 36 31 5 1226

By Gendera

Males made up 72% of all road fatalities in Australia from 2013-2017. Males were overrepresented in crash categories where the road user was in control of the crash situation such as drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists, indicating a potential higher rate of risk taking behaviours in men than in women. Men aged 25 to 34 were found to be 34% more likely to be involved in a car accident than other drivers.

From 2012 to 2017 males made up 70% of fatalities that occurred as a result of drink driving. Males also have a higher number of reported incidents of speeding and mobile phone use in the nation. Land transport accidents made the top 20 causes of death for men in 2016 but not for women. Women were reported to have 7000 fewer crash-insurance claims from 2014-2016.

Year Males Females Total
2013 852 334 1187
2014 819 331 1151
2015 866 339 1205
2016 955 337 1293
2017 879 324 1225
Latest % change -8.0 -3.9 -5.3
Avg. trend change 2.2 -0.4 1.8

a Includes deaths to persons with gender not recorded

By Age Group

From 2008 to 2017 there has been a reduction in road fatalities in the under 40 age bracket. In 2008 they accounted for 56% of all road fatalities, which has since reduced to 44% in 2017. Road fatalities in the 40 and over bracket have risen from 2008 at 44% to 56% in 2017.

17-25 year olds saw a 7% decrease over the decade while people over the age of 75 saw a 5% increase in fatalities. Measures to educate younger drivers on the risks of dangerous driving could be a contributing factor to the decrease in fatalities. Longer and more intensive learning processes and tests could also be a factor.

Deaths By Age Groupb

Year 0-16 17-25 26-39 40-64 65-74 >75 Totalc
2008 87 377 345 395 86 147 1437
2009 106 362 355 445 94 129 1491
2010 74 336 305 418 97 122 1353
2011 93 280 275 398 83 148 1277
2012 70 284 300 400 96 149 1300
2013 66 230 243 374 118 156 1187
2014 65 235 251 359 109 130 1151
2015 65 225 272 373 118 152 1205
2016 60 265 290 412 103 163 1293
2017 48 238 245 382 128 184 1225

b Age groups were changed in March 2014
c Includes deaths to persons with either age or road user type not recorded

Common Causes

The top four causes of fatal car accidents in Australia in 2016 were speeding, alcohol consumption, driver fatigue and inattention/distraction while driving. All four factors are easily prevented and within human control. As cars become more automated there is hope that a reduction in road fatalities will be observed. The National Road Safety Strategy aims to educate Australians on the dangers of these factors as part of their action plan to reduce road fatalities in Australia, as well as imposing stricter monitoring and punishment processes for those found committing these offences.


Speeding is the main cause of fatalities resulting from road crashes. Speeding vehicles are more difficult to manoeuvre than slower vehicles, and the faster you drive, the harder you will collide with other objects. Driving at higher speeds increases the risk of crashes because of the shorter response time the driver has to any unexpected road conditions, it also increases the severity of any collision.

Alcohol consumption can impair the body’s ability to process and react to certain stimuli. Drinking can affect a driver’s concentration, coordination, reflexes and ability to make correct judgements and decisions, all of which are necessary when driving a vehicle. Australian law dictates that the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration is 0.5, while learners and provisional drivers must have a BAC of 0.00.

Accidents that occur when the driver is fatigued usually happen when the driver is either sleep deprived or is driving during their normal hours of sleep. Drivers are four times more likely to have a fatal crash as the result of fatigue between the hours of 10pm till dawn. Fatigue can impair a driver’s judgement and performance, as well as reduce their attention and reflexes.

Inattention has become more of a risk since the invention of the smartphone. Studies have shown that using a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of crashing by 4 times. The law states that holding a mobile phone while driving is illegal unless passing the phone to another person in the car. Other distractions can include adjusting vehicle settings, eating and drinking, passengers and external distractions.

Common Types of Accidents


The majority of these types of accidents all fall into the human error category rather than external factors and indicate that greater attention and care needs to be taken while driving.

In 2016 the most common type of car accident was nose to tail collisions. These types of collisions are often the result of impatience, distraction and tailgating, the practise of driving too close to the car in front.

Collisions with stationary objects are often the result of inattention and speeding while driving. Collisions with parked cars seem to be the most common type of stationary collision.

Failure to give way accidents occur when drivers misjudge the distance and speed of approaching traffic and inattention to their surroundings.

Poor visibility and miscalculating are large contributing factors to collisions that occur while reversing. As more and more cars are fitted with reverse cameras, the statistics for this particular type of accident will hopefully decrease.

Hitting an animal accounts for 5% of all collision types and the most common animal collision in Australia are those collisions that involve kangaroos. Kangaroo collisions account for 9 out of 10 road accidents involving animals.

Accident Type


Since 2008 the percentage of fatalities involving drivers has remained the same at roughly half of all road fatalities. Motorcyclist fatalities have also remained at 17% of total fatalities while there has been a reduction of passenger fatalities. Passenger fatalities still make up the second most common type of fatality in Australia at 19%. Pedal cyclists and pedestrian fatalities have risen one percent each over the 10 year period.

Year Driver Passenger Pedestrian Motorcyclistd Cyclistd Totala
2008 670 303 189 245 28 1437
2009 707 333 196 224 31 1491
2010 636 284 170 224 38 1353
2011 568 286 186 202 34 1277
2012 610 260 170 223 33 1300
2013 557 204 158 213 50 1187
2014 532 228 151 191 45 1150
2015 555 251 162 203 31 1205
2016 626 207 182 248 19 1293
2017 575 235 159 211 38 1225

d Includes pillion passengers
a Includes deaths to persons with gender not recorded

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