Deadliest six months on Australian roads

Fatal Crash
Australia’s road network has recorded its deadliest six months in more than 13 years. Picture: Brendan Beckett

Australia’s road network has recorded its deadliest six months in more than 13 years and a peak body is calling on the data needed to make sense of the growing death toll to be released by state governments.

The Australian Automobile Association’s newest Benchmarking the National Road Safety Strategy report reveals a 7.3 per cent increase in deaths on Australian roads from 2022 to 2023, with 1266 people losing their lives on our roads last year.

The second half of 2023 proved the deadliest consecutive quarters on Australian roads since the first six months of 2010, as 677 road deaths were recorded.

The significant increase in the national road toll in 2023 was driven by a climbing death toll in three Australian states.

NSW recorded a nearly 30 per cent increase from 2022, with 351 individuals losing their lives last year, Victoria’s road toll increased by 22.5 per cent, with 294 deaths in 2023 and South Australia’s road toll reached 117, a nearly 65 per cent increase from 2022.

However, five states and territories recorded a decrease in road deaths, with the ACT recording 14 fewer deaths, Tasmania 16, Western Australia 17, and Queensland 20 fewer deaths.

Flowers laid at the scene of one of Australia’s 1266 fatal road accidents in 2023. Picture: NCA NewsWire

The AAA said the data needed to understand the nation’s worsening road toll relating to the “quality of Australian roads, the causes of crashes, and the effectiveness of the various measures to prevent crashes” was being collected by state governments but had not yet been released.

“Without good data, Australia has no credible plan to understand its current road trauma problems or prevent their continuation,” AAA managing director Michael Bradley said.

“While so much data relating to roads quality and crash causation remains secret, Australia can neither identify the cause of its rising road toll, nor develop the most effective measures to reduce it.

“AAA research shows Australians are deeply cynical of how politicians prioritise road project funding and improved data transparency is a commonsense approach that enjoys overwhelming community support.’’

The AAA has called on the Australian government to compel states and territories to reveal existing road safety data as a condition of receiving future federal road grants.

The AAA’s request comes as the government negotiates a National Partnership Agreement on Land Transport Infrastructure Projects that will oversee how $5bn in federal road funding is distributed over the coming five years.

The AAA said “voluntary data-sharing arrangements are failing” and the only way to improve necessary transparency is to “use the agreement to link data sharing with the receipt of road funding”.