15 June 2006

The death and destruction on Australian roads is costing the nation $17billion each year, according to a University of Queensland report to be released in Brisbane tomorrow. (Friday, June 16).

The report shows that the rate of fatalities in the Northern Territory is more than three times that of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, the three most populous states, and equates to 3.63 percent of the Territory’s economic output.

Queensland and Western Australia’s fatality rates were found to be slightly higher than the national average, possibly due to the greater distances travelled on highways and rural roads in those States.

Research team leader, CONROD Associate Professor of Health Economics Luke Connelly, was so amazed at the economic magnitude of the carnage nationally that he re-checked the figures.

“In fact, the methods we used provided a conservative estimate of the total costs,” Associate Professor Connelly said.

The report will be presented at the first Research Forum of the Australian Centre for Economic Research on Health at the E.S. Meyers Lecture Theatre, 3rd Floor, Mayne Medical School Building, Herston Road, Herston.

The forum, which starts at 10am, is open to the public.

The research provides the first State-by-State comparison of road trauma costs in Australia and has already been published in the prestigious international journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Dr Connelly said the $17billion annual total represented 2.3 percent of Australia’s gross domestic product.

“In other words, the cost of traffic crashes in this country is more than two percent of country’s total economic output per year,” he said.

The research includes the cost of fatal and non-fatal accidents, and looks at the human costs such as hospitalisation and workplace disruption, as well as vehicle and other costs, such as provision of emergency services.

It found a marked variation between the States in the number of road trauma accidents and the associated costs. The research also suggests that although the number of fatalities has plateaued, the number of hospitalisations has been increasing.

“The damage and pain inflicted by more than 25,000 serious injury accidents each year is reflected in these costs. But our totals don’t even touch on the considerable burden that non-fatal injuries can impose on the victims and the families who care for them,” Dr Connelly said.

Professor Peter Brooks, Executive Dean of UQ’s Faculty of Health Sciences and committee member of the International Bone and Joint Decade, says the research findings should be a “wake up call” for the Northern Territory.

“Motor vehicle trauma is one of the issues raised by the International Bone and Joint Decade and highlighted in a United Nations and World Health Organisation report last year as one of the world’s biggest public health issues," Professor Brooks said.

He said the high level of single vehicle rollover crashes in the Northern Territory, where there is no speed limit on many roads outside urban areas, showed there were significant safety issues to be addressed.

“Crash data also showed high rates of alcohol use and low rates of seat belt use. What action is the Northern Territory Government going to take to restrict speed, alcohol and enforce the use of seat belts?” Professor Brooks said.

Professor Brooks called on lobby groups such as the Australasian College of Surgeons through its Trauma Committee to once again draw attention to this issue.

For more information, contact Marlene McKendry on (07) 33464713 or 0401 996847.


ACERH is a newly established, multi-university research centre bringing together researchers from the Australian National University (ANU), The University of Queensland (UQ) and the University of Western Australia (UWA).
The centre’s focus is on applied health economics research in three main areas:
• health care financing and insurance;
• health costs and ageing; and
• the economic burden of illness and injury.

The centre’s first research forum, on Friday June 16, is open to the public. It will be held at the E.S. Meyers Lecture Theatre, 3rd Floor, Mayne Medical School Building, Herston Road Herston.

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The Centre of National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Medicine was established in 1997 through a partnership between the Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC), the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) and The University of Queensland. CONROD`s goal is to improve health, social and vocational outcomes for people with disabilities, with a particular focus on major trauma management, post-injury rehabilitation and disability management.