Driver Knowledge Tests

Facts + statistics: road safety

How does Australia compare to the USA in terms of road safety? According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, there were 19.8 million motor vehicles on the road as at 31 January 2020 Compared with approximately 279.6 million vehicles operating on U.S. roads. Millions of people use cars as their primary source of transportation in the United States and, with a large number of cars in the country, vehicle accidents are practically inevitable, just as they are here.

Whether serious or minor, a car accident can bring on an unexpected financial burden, from time off work to huge medical bills to extensive car repairs. And remember that the USA’s health care system is heavily favoured towards consumer pays and doesn’t have compulsory third-party insurance like we have. In fact, if you’re driving in America, you need to brace yourself for the road – something to be aware of if you’re taking a driving holiday there.

Breaking down the facts: car accident statistics in the United States vs Australia

Based on studies conducted and data published from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the statistics show that:

  • Each year in America, over 37,000 people die as a result of road accidents compared with around 1200 per year in Australia. Two-thirds of Australia’s deaths happen in remote areas, which is understandable given our large mammals and poor-quality rural roads.
  • Because of car accidents, 2.35 million individuals are left injured or disabled annually in the USA vs around 40,000 in Australia

America goes on to record some quite shocking carnage on the road:

  • More than 1,600 children under the age of 15-years-old lose their lives because of a car accident each year.
  • Following their car accident, 2 million drivers suffer from a permanent injury annually.
  • In the United States, road crash-related expenses account for approximately US$230.6 billion every year. In Australia, we look at the total social cost of road accidents which is around AU$33 billion made up of around $9.5b property damage, $10b fatality costs and $13.5b injury costs.
  • There is approximately one fatality every 50 minutes caused by an individual who is driving under the influence.
  • The majority of fatal injuries take place during the weekends and on holidays. With some studies showing that an average of 300 people pass away between Christmas and New Years, as a result of drunk drivers.

While we can gasp at those, bear in mind that Australia performs as poorly on some of those measures, just with a lower figure because of our lower population.

Causes of vehicle accidents

Although there are countless reasons why a car accident may occur, a few commonalities remain pervasive:

  1. Speeding. When a driver speeds, his or her reaction time becomes limited. The amount of time that a driver has to notice a potential safety hazard and react appropriately can be greatly decreased.
  2. Alcohol, drugs, and medication. Not only is driving under the influence a major crime in every state, whether you’re in Australia or America, it is a deadly practice. Driving under the influence accounts for approximately a third of all traffic fatalities in America.
  3. Failing to use lanes properly. Whether neglecting to maintain your lane properly or incorrectly signaling a lane change, failing to use lanes properly can lead to a car accident.
  4. Failing to obey the give way rules. Failing to give way to a driver or pedestrian who has the right of way poses a potentially serious risk of injury for all parties involved.
  5. Distracted driving. Distracted driving could be the result of numerous different conditions. However, one of the leading causes of distracted driving is phone usage. So far in America, over 3,500 people have lost their lives, with an additional 391,000 people who have been seriously injured due to car accidents involving distracted drivers.

Being involved in a car accident can be costly

Car accidents can happen to even the most attentive and cognizant of drivers. Whether or not you are responsible for a car crash, the expenses related to the car accident can quickly pile up from medical expenses and vehicle damage to potential impacts on insurance and loss of revenue. If you’re in America then you can visit 1800-injured or other similar services to find out your rights and obligations relating to car accidents. Here, we have several government and non-profit agencies providing services, such as Road Trauma Support Services in Victoria. Compulsory Third-Party (CTP) insurance is paid when you pay your vehicle registration. It provides compensation for death or bodily injury in motor vehicle accidents. Of course, third-party insurance means that you’ll still need to stump up to repair your own vehicle if it was your fault, but insurance will cover the other vehicle. Bear in mind that South Australia has some restrictions in the CTP scheme.

Darren is an expert on driving and transport, and is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists

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