A new report has identified the financial cost of road trauma and fatalities across New South Wales, as well as the connection between the rate of deaths and injuries and the perceived quality (or lack thereof) of local roads.
The results of the NRMA's Rate Your Road survey have been released, indicating an "indisputable link" between the rate and cost of road trauma and poor road quality – particularly in rural areas.
The report, conducted over a one-year period and surveying 23,000 respondents across NSW, has identified the per capita cost of road deaths and injuries in each local government area, as well as the public's views on the condition of roads in those areas.
'Road trauma cost' can encompass everything from the cost of medical assistance at the site of the crash and beyond, to the cost of repairs, clean-up, law enforcement and even ensuing work cover claims.
The report found the road trauma cost in rural and regional areas could be almost double the amount of that in metropolitan areas, due to a lack of investment in road safety infrastructure.
For example, the local government area with the highest road trauma cost – Upper Lachlan in regional NSW – reported an average of $14,737 per capita over the five years, with a perceived road condition rating of just 34/100.
That compares with the worst-affected metropolitan area – Wollondilly – which had an average road trauma cost of $8171 per capita over the five years, with a perceived road condition rating of 37/100.
"There’s no way to quantify the human cost of road accidents, but calculating the cost to taxpayers is one way to help identify the need for more funding to improve road conditions and road safety," said NRMA Spokesman Peter Khoury.
"The increase in cost between metropolitan and rural road trauma incidents is really quite staggering... It’s really a wake up call that investment in road safety infrastructure for the regions should not be an afterthought by government.
"It’s clear from these results that poor road conditions aren’t isolated to any one region – it’s a much larger problem – one we believe is primarily driven by the budgetary constraints on councils," Mr Khoury said.
As part of its Rate Your Road report, the NRMA is advocating for more road funding from the NSW State Government and the Federal Government.
Additionally, the NRMA claims, its last report on road maintenance issued in early 2019 prompted the State Government to lessen the financial burden of road maintenance on local councils by committing to transfer up to 15,000 kilometres of council-managed regional roads to the State.
"It seems like such a little thing to fix a pothole, but a pothole on a country road – with no speed limit and where there's a history of fatal car incidents – that doesn't get fixed for 10 years... that's a huge issue," NRMA spokesperson John MacGowan told CarAdvice.
In February 2021, there were 27 fatalities on NSW roads – a 10 per cent decrease on the same time last year. It brings the state's year-to-date road toll to 53 fatalities, with March figures yet to be released.