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Find out just what causes car accidents in Australia, how often they occur, and Australians’ attitudes toward them in our latest survey and statistics analysis.

15 September | See disclaimer

Quick facts

  • 64% of surveyed Australians 18+ with driver’s licences have been involved in at least one car accident
  • Government data revealed that speeding is the most common cause of car accidents across Australia
  • 18% of Australians surveyed are more worried about side effects from a vaccine than they are being in a car accident.

Car accidents are a sad, yet common part of life. In fact, “land transport accidents” were one of the leading causes of death among Australians aged from 1-24[1]. And yet, in a country as vast as Australia, driving is an essential part of life.

The key to avoiding accidents shouldn’t be avoiding car travel – rather understanding the specific triggers, and ensuring our habits are as healthy as possible.

To help understand the current rates, causes, and attitudes regarding car accidents, we collected government statistics, and surveyed 1,000 Australians with driver’s licences to bring you:

  1. 1.0. Common causes of car accidents
  2. 2.0. Government-sourced Australian car accident statistics
    1. 2.1. Causes of road fatalities in each state
    2. 2.2. Road fatalities per 100,000 registered motor vehicles in each state/territory
    3. 2.3. Top 5 local regions for road fatalities in 2020
  3. 3.0. Car accident survey results
    1. 3.1. How frequently do you drive on congested roads? (i.e. stop start traffic)
    2. 3.2. How many car accidents have you been in?
    3. 3.3. Which of the following types of car collisions have you been involved in?
    4. 3.4. Which of the following scenarios do you worry about most?
    5. 3.5. What do you believe to be the leading cause of car accidents?
    6. 3.6. Which roads do you feel safest driving on?
  4. 4.0. Tips for avoiding car accidents

1.0. Common causes of car accidents

Speeding

Speeding is either travelling faster than the legal limit, or faster than the road conditions would allow.

Read our Speeding survey & statistics 2021 to learn more.

Distracted driving

Drivers can be easily distracted by phones, eating/drinking, smoking/vaping, applying makeup, and plenty of other common day-to-day things.

Read our Distracted driving survey & statistics 2021 to learn more.

Fatigued driving

“Fatigued sleep” can be due to a lack of quality sleep, a lot of time spend driving, a lack of stimulation, or a busy social/work schedule.

Read our Fatigued driving survey & statistics 2021 to learn more.

Drink driving

1-2 standard drinks can be all it takes to push people above the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit.

Read our Drink driving survey & statistics 2021 to learn more.

2.0 Australian car accident statistics

2.1 Causes of road fatalities in each state

Queensland
New South Wales
Victoria

Number of road fatalities from each cause[2]

Percentage of road fatalities by case - 2014-18 data[3]

  • Speeding - from 2008 to 2021, 29% of road fatalities in Victoria have involved excessive speed[4]
  • Fatigued driving - it’s believed around 20% of fatal crashes in Victoria involved a fatigued driver[5]
  • Not wearing a seatbelt - In Victoria, males on rural roads have an unusually high rate of being involved in an accident while not wearing a seatbelt[6]

2.2 Road fatalities per 100,000 registered motor vehicles in each state/territory

  2016 2020 % change
New South Wales 7.07 5.07 -28%
Victoria 6.19 4.12 -33%
Queensland 6.51 6.61 2%
South Australia 6.30 6.44 2%
Western Australia 8.74 6.76 -23%
Tasmania 8.09 7.11 -12%
Northern Territory 28.53 19.32 -32%
Australian Capital Territory 3.47 2.25 -35%
Australia 7.03 5.57 -21%

To determine the car accident rates of each state, the total road fatalities were measured for every 100,000 registered vehicles in that state[7][8]. The general trend across Australia from 2016 to 2020 was that crash rates per vehicle on the roads decreased by 21%. However, Queensland and South Australia saw minor uplifts in this rate, meaning that road fatalities grew at a greater rate than the number of vehicles registered.

In 2020, the Australian Capital Territory has the fewest fatalities for the number of vehicles registered, at roughly 2 per 100,000 vehicles on the roads. The Northern Territory had the highest rate, with nearly 20 fatalities per 100,000 vehicles.

2.3 Top 10 local regions for road fatalities in 2020

Rank SA4 Name Number of road fatalities (2020)
1st Wide Bay (Qld) 45
2nd Latrobe – Gippsland (Vic) 28
3rd Capital Region (NSW) 24
4th South Australia – SE (SA) 23
5th Gold Coast (Qld) 22
5th Townsville (Qld) 22
6th Central West (NSW) 21
6th Logan – Beaudesert (Qld) 21
6th Mackay – Isaac – Whitsunday (Qld) 21
6th Northern Territory – Outback (NT) 21
6th Riverina (NSW) 21

Data from BITRE shows the five local regions (SA4s) with the highest numbers of road fatalities[7]. Wide Bay (a region around Bundaberg and Gympie in Queensland[9]) had 45 road fatalities in one year – averaging nearly one a week. However, it’s also worth remembering these regions will vary in size, and these figures don’t represent your overall safety driving in any area.

Of the top 11 SA4s for car accidents in 2020, 5 were in Queensland. Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory did not feature in the top 10.

3.0 Car accident survey results

3.1 How frequently do you drive on congested roads?

Australia
State
Age
Gender

In developing these groupings, those that drive “rarely” (or later in this survey, appear as having a “low” rate of congested driving) were those that drive once a week or less in congested conditions. The “sometimes” bracket (or “medium” rate) are those that drive 2-3 times in congested conditions every week. Finally, the “often” range (and those that have a “high” congested driving rate) are those that drive 5 or more times in congested traffic every week.

Western Australian respondents seemed to have the highest rate of driving in congested conditions of any state or territory in Australia. On the other hand, Tasmanians and New South Wales-based participants had the lowest rates of suggesting they often drive through congestion.

3.2 How many car accidents have you been in? (regardless of if you were driving or if you were at fault)

Australia
State
Age
Gender
Rate of congested driving

Around 64% of Australian respondents indicated they had been involved in at least 1 car accident before. However, this rate rose to around 69% in Victoria, and over 71% in Tasmania.

As could be expected, around 21% drivers with a high rate of driving in congested conditions have been in 3 or more crashes. This is significantly higher than the 14% of those with a “low” rate of congested driving, and 19% of those with a “medium” rate of congested driving. In essence – the more travel a person does in congested conditions, the more likely they are to have been involved in a high number of car accidents.

Male respondents also have a higher rate of having been in an accident before (65%) than women (62%).

3.3 Which of the following types of car collisions have you been involved in?*

Australia
State
Age
Gender
Rate of congested driving
  Nose-to-tail Side swipe Collision with stationary vehicle/object Collision while reversing Collision with an animal
NSW 46.7% 35.0% 26.7% 17.2% 9.4%
Vic 57.1% 32.6% 28.0% 16.6% 9.7%
Qld 60.5% 35.8% 16.4% 14.2% 14.2%
WA 49.3% 40.3% 29.9% 17.9% 10.5%
SA 48.9% 34.0% 31.9% 17.0% 8.5%
Tas 46.7% 20.0% 26.7% 26.7% 6.7%
  Nose-to-tail Side swipe Collision with stationary vehicle/object Collision while reversing Collision with an animal
18-24 43.9% 14.6% 22.0% 12.2% 17.1%
25-34 43.8% 28.9% 29.8% 23.1% 10.7%
35-44 52.5% 31.1% 29.5% 23.0% 9.0%
45-54 60.8% 40.0% 27.5% 16.7% 10.0%
55-64 55.1% 35.7% 26.5% 14.3% 10.2%
65+ 58.5% 43.7% 16.3% 8.1% 11.9%
  Nose-to-tail Side swipe Collision with stationary vehicle/object Collision while reversing Collision with an animal
Female 50.5% 31.3% 26.5% 15.7% 9.3%
Male 56.5% 38.0% 24.4% 17.6% 12.4%
  Nose-to-tail Side swipe Collision with stationary vehicle/object Collision while reversing Collision with an animal
Low 54.0% 34.5% 25.4% 13.9% 9.7%
Medium 48.4% 31.9% 25.5% 21.3% 12.2%
High 61.5% 39.4% 25.7% 17.4% 11.9%

*Only respondents who had indicated they had been involved in car accidents before were given this prompt. Respondents could also select multiple options, meaning answers may not add up to 100%.

Over half of all drivers who have been involved in accidents have experienced a nose-to-tail collision. Queensland had the highest rate of drivers having collisions with animals, with over 14% of drivers who have experienced a crash having encountered an animal on the roads.

3.4 Which of the following scenarios do you worry about most?

Australia
State
Age
Gender

For every 3 respondents that were most worried about car accidents, there was 1 that was most worried about dying of side-effects from a vaccine (making the Australian ratio 3:1). Females were less likely than men to be worried about vaccines, with a 4:1 ratio of fearing car accidents to vaccines.

3.5 What do you believe to be the leading cause of car accidents?

   
 1st Speeding
 2nd Distracted driving
 3rd Tailgating / aggressive driving
 4th Driving drunk
 5th Driving tired
 6th Failing to give way
 7th Driving through red lights
 8th Poorly designed roads/intersections

By asking all Australian respondents to order each cause of car accidents from most to least likely, the list above represents the average placements of each cause. Speeding was voted the most likely cause of car accidents, followed by distracted driving, aggressive driving, drink driving, fatigued driving, and several other driving behaviours. Interestingly, Australians do feel that the fault lies with the driver (not the roads), voting poorly designed roads / intersections the least likely cause of crashes.

These results closely match trends across Australia, which show that speeding has been the greatest cause of road fatalities. However, drink driving and fatigued driving are often the two most common causes[2], which our respondents didn’t consider to be as risky as distracted driving, or aggressive driving.

3.6 Which roads do you feel safest driving on?

   
1st Motorways/freeways
2nd Suburban streets
3rd Main roads
4th Country/rural roads

Interestingly, the average Australian result showed that country/rural roads were voted as feeling the least safe roads to drive on. 41% of respondents voted for “Motorways/freeways” as their safest roads, and another 16% felt it was their second-safest road option.

4.0 Tips for avoiding car accidents

Obey road laws

This might seem obvious, but road laws are only there to help keep drivers safe. Things like speed limits, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits, road signs – they all help ensure drivers have the best chances possible to avoid accidents.

Keep calm and cool

Aggressive driving only increases your chances of being involved in an accident. Tailgating, gestures, and risky acceleration all create scenarios where your reaction times are limited, and your chances of avoiding a crash are reduced.

Stay alert

Fatigued driving is an obvious contributor to road accidents across Australia. If you feel yourself getting tired on the road, it’s never worth pressing on. Finding somewhere to stop and recharge will always be the smartest way to avoid an accident.

References:

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021, Deaths in Australia.

[2] Queensland Government, 2021, Road safety statistics.

[3] Transport for NSW, 2021, Driving too fast.

[4] Transport Accident Commission, 2021, Statistics by Topic.

[5] Transport Accident Commission, 2021, Fatigue statistics.

[6] Transport Accident Commission, 2021, Seatbelt statistics.

[7] BITRE, 2021, Australian Road Deaths Database.

[8] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2021, Motor Vehicle Census, Australia.

[9] Australian Government, 2021, About my region – Wide Bay Queensland.

Disclaimer: This survey was conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Budget Direct in August 2021. The survey was conducted online with a total sample size of 1,000, weighted and representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+) with driver’s licences. All other data on this website is the latest available from the named sources in the references above, and was obtained in August 2021. Auto & General Services Pty Ltd does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.

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