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New road user research reveals increased regional road risk

Australian Road Safety Foundation implores NSW drivers to be the change they want to see

With two in three road deaths occurring on regional roads,[1] new research from the Australian Road Safety Foundation[2] (ARSF) has detailed why all New South Wales residents have a personal responsibility to take action.

Released today, to mark the fourth annual Rural Road Safety Month, the research revealed that high risk rural roads are used by the vast majority (93%) of New South Wales residents at least once a year.

In fact, almost half (47%) of the state’s drivers utilise regional roads multiple times across a week.

The research confirmed that it is not just regional residents either, with personal travel confirmed as the number one reason (28%) for driving on the state’s regional roads. This was followed by visiting friends and family (25%), living in the area (25%) and rounded out by traveling for work (14%).

Road authorities are concerned these risks may increase in the wake of Covid-19 flight fears. The report confirmed that more than half (54%) of the New South Wales population are more likely to drive longer trips this year.

ARSF Founder and CEO Russell White said the research helped to explain the high disparity between the number of road deaths occurring on regional New South Wales roads compared to urban areas.

“We now have strong evidence that when it comes to preventing road trauma in regional areas, drivers from across greater Sydney and built-up areas carry an equal responsibility to local residents,” Mr White said.

The research showed that more than a quarter of New South Wales drivers (27%) are more likely to break a road rule when in regional areas. Most alarmingly, however, was the frequency of this high risk behaviour.

The ARSF’s research found that a third (33%) of the state’s drivers break rules on a daily basis in regional areas, compared to 25 per cent in urban areas.

Mr White said a key takeaway from the research, however, was that for the majority of New South Wales drivers the reasons for taking road risks in rural areas were all preventable, with distraction and belief of not being caught coming in as the top two reasons.

“The risks being taken are choices. It just really goes to show that empowering more people to choose road safety is going to have the biggest impact on reducing the tragic loss of life and serious injury on our roads,” he said.

As part of Rural Road Safety Month, the ARSF is imploring all New South Wales residents to help prevent further loss of life and trauma by choosing road safety.

“The best place to start in terms of choosing road safety is to better improve road safety resilience – that is preparedness to face new, different and more dangerous driving conditions,’ Mr White said. 

The research showed 84 per cent of New South Wales residents have driven under extreme conditions such as heavy rain, fog, hail, flooding, bushfires, snow and cyclones.

And while 96 per cent of the state’s drivers reported feeling unsafe for part or all of the experience, 64 per cent still don’t have a safety plan for these conditions in place.

The ARSF research was conducted by a third-party research company, Pure Profile, and was an online survey of more than 1,500 licenced Australians, nationally representative by gender, age and location.

For more information or to find out how to get involved, visit arsf.com.au.

RURAL ROAD SAFETY MONTH 2021

NSW Fact Sheet

 Regional road safety is not limited to just rural residents:

 New South Wales drivers utilise regional roads more frequently than the national average:

    • Close to half (47%) of the state’s drivers utilise regional roads at least once a week
    • More than a third (35%) do so multiple times a week
  • What’s more, the large majority of New South Wales drivers utilise regional roads at least once a year (93%)
  • It’s not just residents of regional areas utilising the roads either, the most common reason for the state’s drivers to utilise regional roads in order are:
    • 28% for personal travel
    • 25% to visit family and friends
    • 25% reside in regional areas
    • 14% are traveling for work
  • In the Covid-impacted era, the usage of regional roads is expected to increase with more than half (54%) of New South Wales residents more likely to drive longer trips than fly this year

 Dangerous driving conditions that are typically associated with regional areas have impacted the majority of New South Wales drivers:

  •  In fact, more than 84% of New South Wales licence holders have driven under extreme conditions:
    • Heavy rainfall (76%)
    • Thick fog (57%)
    • Hail (37%)
    • Flooding (23%)
    • Bushfire (20%)
    • Heavy Snowfall (11%)
    • Cyclone (3%)
  • When faced with this scenario, 96% reported feeling unsafe for part or all of the experience
  • Despite this, 64% of New South Wales drivers don’t have a safety plan in place for facing extreme conditions when behind the wheel
  • More than 4 in 10 (42%) of New South Wales drivers believe better education or training on what to do would have made them feel safer
  • 87% of the state’s drivers believe that there should be more community awareness for road safety resilience in preparation for these extreme conditions

 New Sale Wales attitudes towards safety are a critical factor in the shocking statistic that two in three road deaths occur in regional areas:

 Not only do two-thirds of New South Wales drivers break road rules generally, but more than a quarter (27%) are more likely to do so when in regional areas

  • More concerningly, however, is the frequency of this high-risk behavior.
    • In regional areas, 17% will break a road rule on a daily basis, double the numbers in metropolitan areas
    • A third will do so at least once a week in regional areas, compared to a quarter driving on urban streets
  • The main reasons for breaking road rules in regional areas are preventable – almost half of the state’s drivers (49%) say distraction was the number one reason, but also for more than 4 in 10 drivers it’s believing they are safe from being caught.

The types of unsafe practices New South Wales drivers undertake more in regional areas are in conflict with what already makes these roads more high risk:

 Despite the higher risks of regional roads such as speeds, infrastructure and other hazards such as wild life, the following were more likely to occur in regional areas than in city areas:

    • Not wearing a seat belt
    • Not wearing a helmet (on motorbike, bicycle, scooter etc)
    • Jaywalking
    • Using a mobile phone behind the wheel
    • Driving over the alcohol limit
    • Driving under the influence of drugs

Community engagement and education on personal responsibility has the power to dramatically reduce road trauma in regional areas:

  • Almost all New South Wales drivers (95%) believe we have the power to reduce the road toll
  • More than half (53%) believe it’s education and a change in attitude that will have the biggest impact against other solutions such as improved infrastructure or more policing
  • Education and engagement reported the strongest influence on Australians for improving their own road safety practices:
    • Reading or hearing about road safety in the media (56%)
    • Reading or hearing about road safety on social media (34%)
    • Seeing or attending a community event (29%)
    • Being personally impacted by road trauma (25%)

Research conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of the Australian Road Safety Foundation, April 2020, n=1001 nationally representative by gender, age and location of Australian drivers aged 18 years and over

[1] Australian Government, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communication, BITRE Road Deaths Database, accessed 1 July 2021

[2] Research conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of the Australian Road Safety Foundation, June 2021, n=1501 nationally representative by gender, age and location of Australian drivers aged 18 years and over

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