Call for real road crash statistics 

Road safety programs are often based on road crash statistics. But when those statistics are conflicting or even wrong, how can the safety initiatives be effective?

Unfortunately, most crash statistics are sourced from the police who are not qualified to collect and collate data. They seem to opt for “speed” as the factor in most crashes.

Their reports often form the basis of speed limit changes and police crackdowns. Many of these focus on motorcyclists who are often quoted as overrepresented in crash statistics.

In one glaring example of incorrect crash statistics, VicRoads director for the Metro North West region said that in the five years to 2013 there were 199 crashes recorded on a particular street and speed was a factor in 152.

Yet five months earlier, the RACV questioned the validity of theses figures. An RACV consultant who surveyed police reports claims that 30% of the 199 crashes hadn’t even occurred on that street.

That’s a difference of 60 crashes, says Victorian motorcycle advocate Rodney Brown.

“How can anyone come up with a safety strategy if the data is different or is incorrect from one organisation to another?” he asks.

Rodney Brown bike lanes statistics
Rodney Brown

He says the 2012 Parliament of Victoria Road Safety Committee “Inquiry into Motorcycle Safety” report made 64 recommendations to improve motorcycle safety. The first recommendation was establishing an independent office of road safety data.

More than four years later it still hasn’t been created.

In fact, VicRoads says it’s not needed. The top recommendation. Not needed!

But even if it had been established, that would only address a problem within one state.

David Bobberman of Austroads told the recent Australasian Road Safety Conference in Canberra we need greater focus on nationwide crash statistics, not just specific locations and individual projects.

Motoring Advisory Council member Hassan Rastazadeh told the conference the problem extended to between authorities and interpretation of injury terms.

He says there needs to be a linkage between crash and hospital data. Until 1990 the only crash statistics used for road safety came from the police. Health information and now CTP claims and lifetime care data have only been included since 2012.

He also says definitions of what constitutes a serious or moderate injury vary across each jurisdiction. That is despite there being a national definition that says serious injury is “all those requiring hospitalised care”. Moderate injury is defined as “attend emergency department only but not admitted”.

National framework

Motoring Advisory Council chairman and Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party member Pete Styles says they are calling for a national data collection framework.

“It’s my observation that crash data in Australia is so poorly captured we really do have no chance of hitting our trauma reduction targets set by the National Road safety Strategy,” he says.

“Vision Zero while noble is nothing more than a dream if we don’t start capturing comprehensive crash data now.

“Right now we barely capture factors that caused or influenced severity of the crash. Speed, alcohol, fatigue and seatbelts is about as far as most states go. Capturing road trauma medical records is only just starting to happen now in places.

“Unless it’s a fatal very little gets recorded. We simply record the where, who, what time, what car and basic site observations.

“We have no idea if the driver was distracted, drugged, suicidal or driving like a Muppet.

“Speed is only such a big problem to our experts because they aren’t looking at the whole picture in crash data. It’s all inherently accepted by the current ‘safe system’ approach which seems to be hell bent on ignoring the driver element. It’s too hard to get drivers to be responsible.”

He says AMEP wants to include insurance industries, health care systems, licensing and policing systems to input statistics into one government-run crash database held and managed by the bureau in charge of national crash statistics.”

Most of us are not fans of creating another level of bureaucracy, but surely it’s time for a national road crash data organisation that sets standards, definitions and data collecting protocols and includes statistics from all relevant areas.

Otherwise, riders will continue to be targeted by misguided and unfounded “road safety programs” … in other words, police crackdowns on speed, loud exhausts, short fenders …

14 Comments

  1. I read a Digital Sign above the highway going home the other night in Brisbane & it read: “Rider’s use Your Sixth Sense”. It’s been a week now and I can’t find it, so I asked some-one in the local Transport Office to no avail.
    I’m pretty sure I know what the Brisbane Transport Committee means, I think, BUT HOW ABOUT TRAINING CAR DRIVERS & L PLATERS TO BE MOTORCYCLE AWARE, The Brisbane Council is spending a friggen fortune on Safety between Traffic of all sorts and bloody Push Bikes, also building for example not far from my place a Bridge so the LYCRA BRIGADE on their Bikes can cross an intersection over Moggill Road, cost well over the 1 Million Dollar mark.
    I think I’m entitled to take my Motorcycle across it, at least I’ll be safe from cars…

  2. “Speed is a factor in x% of crashes and deaths” is conceptually a really dumb way to categorize crash statistics,
    If 1 object hits another object at a speed that is greater than the body can sustain, speed is a factor!
    it doesn’t matter if the victim was doing 40kmh in an 80 zone, if they hit something, or get hit, the 40kmh speed is a factor.
    so spending heaps on making sure people do 79 in an 80 zone will do very little.

    Root cause analysis will shed better light into the strategies for future road safety initiatives. its usually a failure of a road user(sometimes motorcyclists too) to do something.(indicate, not tailgate, stopping at a red, looking before pulling out, etc)
    Looking at, “road user X failed to do Y. So how do we make people do it properly” will make much more of a difference.

  3. How can any credibility be given to an organisation, in this case the NSW Police, that will actively target and prosecute a rider or driver for committing a traffic offence that does not result in any actual danger to other road users, ( for example exceeding the speed limit) , yet when an actual collision occurres. Is not interested at all in attending the scene or actually prosecuting anyone? Drive 10 kph over the speed limit on the highway and they’ll fine your ass, but run into the back of someone at the lights and they won’t attend. Actually don’t want to know. In my view, the Police should attend and investigate every motor vehicle collision no matter how minor. Only when they do that can they actually state with any credibility that they have accurate figures or a genuine interest in reducing the crash rate.

  4. The auditor general found that 2/3 of motorcycle accident data was missing from the current reports.

    He found that 1/3 of that missing data should be included in road accidents.

    The missing data was found by comparing hospital records to police/Vic roads/TAC figures.

    http://www.audit.vic.gov.au/publications/2010-11/20110209-Motorcycles.pdf

    That report was a number of years ago… and yet nothing has been done about fixing the data.

    Words to rider reps have fallen on deaf ears.

    It is time that MEAP (Motorcycle Expert Advisory Panel) put some “Experts” on the panel?

    http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/expert-panel-to-improve-motorcycle-safety-for-victoria/

    The older VMAC (Victorian Motorcycle Advisory Committee) contained a much larger pool of rider experts with a wider range of skills.

    🙂

  5. If its about loss of life why is there so little said and done about suicide in 2015, 3087 comitted suicide over 75% were males .

    Then there is heart disease, cvd is attributed to 1 death every 12 mins.

    I feel everyone is being conned , how about we put a huge effort and money into areas that will give the greatest result.

  6. The sad fact is all bikers need to have a healthy fear of every other vehicle on the road at all times. To illustrate my point, I entered a roundabout yesterday indicating a right hand turn, before exiting the roundabout, i indicated a left hand turn, but i also noted over my left shoulder a van entering the roundabout that ‘might’ cut in front of me, so i boldly held out my left arm and waved it to indicate my intention to exit the roundabout at the moment, the van slowed and i exited safely. When riding we need to use all our ‘spidey’ senses and take action. Theres no time to ‘wait and see’ what the other vehicles intention is. There are always going to be unforseeable deaths, tragic accidents and stupid behaviour. Everyone needs motorbike safety education, not just the riders. do need more education. And target the schools as well.

  7. What really irks me is the way in which fatalities are listed as “per 100,000 vehicles”, ie. ownership, not use. This erroneously shows Australia in a much better light than many countries that have higher speed limits. Eg, Germany and the USA. The big error is because in those countries, people drive much greater distances. Have a look at I90 in the US. Or any Interstate. Packed with cars driving across the country. The roads are so good that people think nothing of driving hundreds of miles at a sitting. I’ve just ridden 9000 kms there is a few weeks, and over 160,000 there in the last few years. My informed guess would be that the average vehicle in the US travels more than twice as much as the same vehicles here.

    So in fact Australia’s statistics are much WORSE than we are led to believe. This lie suits the academic authorities, but it is still a big lie. Also, the sharply rising toll at present has to have a reason. The bureaucrats need to climb down, seek independent advice and stop lecturing us, we’re not that stupid.

    For what its worth, my guess at the cause? In a word; Electronic inattention.

    1. the road toll is around 1/3rd what it was in the 1970”s
      until you make vehicles fully automated there is not much
      chance of getting the accident rate much lower.
      Humans are not machines there are countless reasons
      for inattention or lapses of judgement and you are not going to train
      or legislate them away. the whole Zero thing is just a load of unobtainable crap. Can anyone seriously tell me they have never
      had a brain freeze and made a really stupid mistake?

  8. Hi Mark, how frustrated for poor Rodzkneez (aka Steve McQueen), as should all Victorian motorcyclist. The 2012 PIMS enquiry recommendation on this matter still not been actioned upon.

    One must seriously consider, how much sway, VicRoads, the TAC, and VicPol have over our government, both Liberal in the past, and now Labor.

    But then again, how would some of the most unrealistic statistics, that has been quoted of late, stand up?

    BTW Mark, any news of the two fellas cleaned up in Maribyrnong?

    Grumpy Old Bastard
    Ride free and safe

  9. As long as the Police and Medical professions are the main source of data and recommendation to govt concerning Road Safety we are doomed to a tunnel vision concept that motorcyclists are an irresponsible and reckless breed . In their minds we are largely responsible for our own crashes , injuries and deaths in the majority of cases . they also
    ( with exceptions ) see us as a source of frustration and resent the amount of work created for them . additionally the millions upon millions in fines rolling in to cash strapped govt coffers fits perfectly with their dumbed down style of bigger fines , lower limits and a mind set that’s we are an annoying sub class , justifying a culture of dirty tricks and lack of interest in the underlying causes . Poor roads , incompetent drivers , and poor standards of training for all new road users .

  10. Very important is yes a lot of people have died this year in motorcycle accidents.
    What they have neglected to mention is a great deal of them were unlicenced and stolen bikes.
    Why do we need new laws for the legit riders when very few were even involved.
    Nothing nicer that a blanket statistic to further an unessecary law change just because?

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