Australia’s national road toll is rising dramatically after 40 years of steady improvement, with a new report revealing the locations of our most dangerous highways and byways.
Figures from the Australian Automobile Association’s (AAA) AusRAP report reveal 15,339 crashes and almost 1000 deaths occurred across 247 sections of national highways from 2010 to 2014.
The report found 1273 Australians have been killed on our roads from January to September this year for an annual increase of 86 fatalities.
With the busiest and most dangerous driving period identified as the Christmas, organisations and experts alike are calling on the Federal Government to redouble road safety efforts.
“Governments are rightly focussed on how to address the worsening road toll and this report highlights the areas of highway most in need of further investment in order to save lives,” AAA chief executive Michael Bradley said.
“Australia’s motoring clubs are calling on all governments to make targeted, effective investments in road safety, and we urge them to use our statistically-based analysis to help make those investments.”
More than 2500 Australians are seriously injured on the road every month, the report stated.
The data named western Sydney’s Parramatta Road from Concord to the M7 Westlink in New South Wales as the worst section of road in the country.
The 24-kilometre stretch of road was deemed to have the highest risk of accident, with 788 “casualty crashes” where at least one person has been killed or injured, and six deaths among the almost 95,000 people passing along it everyday.
The second most dangerous section was along the rural M2/A2 Bass Highway in northern Tasmania.
In the five-year period, 67 casualty crashes and one death occurred on the seven-kilometre section, despite only 14,700 vehicles a day using the road.
Worst 10 sections of national highways revealed:
Tasmania had three of the most dangerous stretches in AAA’s top 10 worst roads, including the A8/East Tamar Highway and the M1/Midland Highway.
Sydney’s M31 Hume Motorway to South Western Motorway rounded out the top three, where there have been 726 crashes and seven deaths.
Queensland featured the most with four roads reported among Australia’s worst, three of those along the Pacific Motorway for a total of 1474 casualty crashes and 23 deaths.
Western Australia’s remote, 83-kilometre stretch from Great Northern/Victoria Highway through Kununnurra to the WA border only sees 450 vehicles a day but suffered 16 crashes, four of those involving death to close out the top 10.
Both Victoria and South Australia did not appear in the most dangerous roads rankings, but specific sections still rated as a high-risk to drivers.
In Melbourne, the Princes Freeway between the Western Ring Road and Hoppers Crossing saw 150 crashes and two deaths – with over 131,000 vehicles traversing the motorway.
Meanwhile, Adelaide’s M1 South East Freeway near Sterling was South Australia’s most dangerous road. The report found 60 casualty crashes and two deaths had occurred.
Congestion, investments ruining our roads
Congestion has been identified as a key factor to the deterioration of Australia’s highways.
“Roads are designed to carry a certain amount of traffic and speed, and since that has changed, the road isn’t designed to handle new speeds and more traffic,” RMIT University road safety and monitoring expert professor Richard Tay said.
Professor Tay pointed to the Pacific Highway in Queensland as one that was in desperate need for an upgrade.
“The road was designed a long time ago when traffic was different, and now the traffic conditions have changed and we need to upgrade the road appropriately,” he said.
And according to experts, investment into our national highways and road safety is the only solution.
“I think it’s imperative … there’s an enormous amount of infrastructure work and safety requirements need to be done,” Driver Safety managing director Russell White said.
“In terms of investments needed for roads, there’s a number of places where there are known issues and there are major safety concerns, I think if we are really serious about road safety we need five star roads.
“You don’t have to drive very far to see roads, even just outside major towns, that there are significant issues with and plenty of things to hit.”
Queensland University of Technology transport engineering professor Rod Troutbeck echoed the statement, saying Victoria doesn’t feature in the worst sections of national highways due to its high level of spending.
“In essence, you have to say Victoria has been spending more money on road safety and that does show on these figures,” Prof Troutbeck said.
“Victoria doesn’t feature in the worst of the worst [dangerous roads] because they are doing something right with the spending, the TAC are spending a lot of money on road safety in Victoria,” he explained.
“There needs to be as much spending as there can be put into road safety that communities can accept.”