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Open Access Research article

Are we there yet? Australian road safety targets and road traffic crash fatalities

Susan Gargett1*, Luke B Connelly12 and Son Nghiem1

Author Affiliations

1 Centre of National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Medicine (CONROD), The University of Queensland, Edith Cavell Building, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Herston, Qld, 4029, Australia

2 Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health (ACERH), The University of Queensland, Edith Cavell Building, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Herston, Qld, 4029, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:270  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-270

Published: 29 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Road safety targets are widely used and provide a basis for evaluating progress in road safety outcomes against a quantified goal. In Australia, a reduction in fatalities from road traffic crashes (RTCs) is a public policy objective: a national target of no more than 5.6 fatalities per 100,000 population by 2010 was set in 2001. The purpose of this paper is to examine the progress Australia and its states and territories have made in reducing RTC fatalities, and to estimate when the 2010 target may be reached by the jurisdictions.

Methods

Following a descriptive analysis, univariate time-series models estimate past trends in fatality rates over recent decades. Data for differing time periods are analysed and different trend specifications estimated. Preferred models were selected on the basis of statistical criteria and the period covered by the data. The results of preferred regressions are used to determine out-of-sample forecasts of when the national target may be attained by the jurisdictions. Though there are limitations with the time series approach used, inadequate data precluded the estimation of a full causal/structural model.

Results

Statistically significant reductions in fatality rates since 1971 were found for all jurisdictions with the national rate decreasing on average, 3% per year since 1992. However the gains have varied across time and space, with percent changes in fatality rates ranging from an 8% increase in New South Wales 1972-1981 to a 46% decrease in Queensland 1982-1991. Based on an estimate of past trends, it is possible that the target set for 2010 may not be reached nationally, until 2016. Unsurprisingly, the analysis indicated a range of outcomes for the respective state/territory jurisdictions though these results should be interpreted with caution due to different assumptions and length of data.

Conclusions

Results indicate that while Australia has been successful over recent decades in reducing RTC mortality, an important gap between aspirations and achievements remains. Moreover, unless there are fairly radical ("trend-breaking") changes in the factors that affect the incidence of RTC fatalities, deaths from RTCs are likely to remain above the national target in some areas of Australia, for years to come.