ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

Driver knowledge about road fatalities in Australia

Fleiter, Judy, Watson, B



The concept of a road toll, (i.e., the tally of road deaths) is something that attracts media attention, particularly in holiday seasons, where a daily road toll update is broadcast. Since the media focuses attention on this issue, one might expect that this would translate into awareness among drivers of the number of people killed in road crashes. In turn, it would be hoped that such awareness would encourage safer driving. While we, as road safety professionals, are aware of the numbers and trends relating to annual road tolls, there is limited information available to indicate awareness levels among road users. This paper reports the results of a survey of 833 Queensland drivers regarding the number of people killed on Queensland and Australian roads in the preceding year. Overall, 12% of participants did not provide a numerical response to either question. Of those who did respond, three quarters of participants reported a number below the actual Australian figure (1601) and responses ranged from 4 to 200,000 deaths. Approximately 60% of participants reported a number below the Queensland figure (336) and responses ranged from 7 to 15,000 deaths. Interestingly, when actual figures were provided to participants upon completion of the survey, some drivers reported that they had grossly underestimated the figures because their estimates were based on recollections of Christmas/Easter media reports. Overall, these results suggest that road users are relatively unaware of the full extent of road deaths and that, somewhat paradoxically, media reports might, in part, contribute to underestimations of the extent of road trauma.