Australia’s most populous state posted the lowest road toll since 1923, due in part to reduced traffic caused by the coronavirus crisis.
- shares

NSW posted its lowest road toll in 97 yearssince 1923, when the population was less than one-third the size it is today.

National road toll data for 2020 is due to be published mid-January. However, if the recent downward trend continues it could be the lowest national road toll since World War II.

Reduced traffic caused by travel restrictions during the coronavirus crisis were major contributing factors to the reduction in the road toll.

However, the 2020 result also points to marked improvements in vehicle safety – most new cars introduced over the past decade have five-star safety – better roads, stricter enforcement, and faster response times from emergency services.

Official figures released by Transport for NSW show 297 people died on the roads in 2020, a reduction of 16 per cent (or 56 deaths) compared to the prior year.

With a population of 7.4 million people in NSW, this equates to a fatality rate of 3.64 deaths per 100,000 people, which is lower than the most recent national average of 4.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

By comparison, in 1923 there were 231 road deaths from a population of 2.3 million people in NSW, a fatality rate of 10 deaths per 100,000 people.

The most recent national road toll data – to the end of November 2020 – showed 1132 deaths over the preceding 12 months.

If the full year figure for 2020 falls below this – or below the 2018 tally of 1135 deaths – it would be the lowest national road toll since 1945, when 1011 deaths were reported.

In a media statement, the Minister for Roads, Andrew Constance, said drivers should not become complacent about the reduction in the road toll or the dangers on the road

“While we have seen a significant reduction in road trauma in a number of areas over the past 12 months, we cannot be complacent about the dangers,” said Mr Constance.

“There may have been fewer deaths among drivers, passengers and motorcyclists but it has also been a year where we have seen a significant reduction in traffic volumes due to the pandemic.”

Disturbingly, the national data shows a dramatic rise in the number of cyclist deaths in the past 12 months, presumably as more people rely on food delivery riders.

Figures show 47 cyclists were killed on the nation’s roads in the 12 months to the end of November, an increase of 47 per cent in five years. In 2016, 32 cyclists were killed in the 12 months to the end of November.