Fact sheet: Regional road safety

Fifty-five per cent of road crash deaths occur in regional1 areas of Australia.

The rate of road crash deaths is 9.6 per 100,000 people in regional Australia, compared with 2.2 per 100,000 in Major Cities.

road deaths - regional australia

Why is there a greater risk on regional roads?

Key reasons for higher death rates outside of cities are high speed roads—a greater proportion of the crashes are in higher speed zones. A number of roads in regional and remote areas are undivided, single carriageways with poorer surface conditions and design, and increased road side hazards (legacy road standard). The default speed limit for these roads typically applies (100 km/h in most jurisdictions, though many roads are signposted at 110 km/h). These roads have been found to consistently have a much higher proportion of crash deaths than other roads.

The types of crashes and the speed at which they occur are particularly dangerous. 73% of fatalities in regional areas were the result of lane departure (run-off road and head-on) crashes.

In addition to high speeds and their condition, other contributors include:

  • Fatigue
  • Limited public transport access
  • Driver behavior including not driving to conditions 
  • Limited enforcement resources and larger areas to cover
  • Longer journey time

How can this be improved?

Strategies are needed to reduce these crash types, including through making the roads safer.

There are a range of low cost, high impact road treatments that can be applied to reduce the risk and consequence of lane departure and head on crashes. These include:

  • Audio tactile line markings
  • Wire rope and other barriers
  • Median treatments, including wide centrelines or safety barriers
  • Shoulder widening and sealing
  • Protection from roadside hazards
  • Manage the speed limit
  • Heavy vehicle management

Other strategies that can be used alongside low cost road safety treatments include encouraging regional road users to purchase safer vehicles using ANCAP and the UCSR program, targeted regional engagement, heavy vehicle management and major road safety treatments such as curve realignment.

The application of these treatments and other strategies has seen some risks reduce, however there is more to be done.

1 The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Australian Statistical Geography Standard Remoteness Structure divides Australia into five classes of remoteness on the basis of a measure of relative access to services: Major Cities (includes all capital cities except Hobart and Darwin, and includes other large cities), Inner Regional, Outer Regional, Remote, Very Remote. This fact sheet combines the Inner and Outer Regional categories.