Rural and remote road safety study : final report
Sheehan, Mary C., Siskind, Victor, Turner, Richard, Veitch, Craig, O'Connor, Teresa, Steinhardt, Dale A., Blackman, Ross A., Edmonston, Colin J., & Sticher, Gayle (2008) Rural and remote road safety study : final report. CARRS-Q Monograph Series, 4. Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety, Queensland, Brisbane, Qld.
Concern and action for rural road safety is relatively new in Australia in comparison to the field of traffic safety as a whole.
In 2003, a program of research was begun by the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Queensland (CARRS-Q) and the Rural Health Research Unit (RHRU) at James Cook University to investigate factors contributing to serious rural road crashes in the North Queensland region.
This project was funded by the Premier’s Department, Main Roads Department, Queensland Transport, QFleet, Queensland Rail, Queensland Ambulance Service, Department of Natural Resources and Queensland Police Service. Additional funding was provided by NRMA Insurance for a PhD scholarship. In-kind support was provided through the four hospitals used for data collection, namely Cairns Base Hospital, The Townsville Hospital, Mount Isa Hospital and Atherton Hospital.-----
The primary aim of the project was to:
Identify human factors related to the occurrence of serious traffic incidents in rural and remote areas of Australia, and to the trauma suffered by persons as a result of these incidents, using a sample drawn from a rural and remote area in North Queensland.-----
The data and analyses presented in this report are the core findings from two broad studies: a general examination of fatalities and casualties from rural and remote crashes for the period 1 March 2004 until 30 June 2007, and a further linked case-comparison study of hospitalised patients compared with a sample of non-crash-involved drivers.-----
The study was undertaken in rural North Queensland, as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) statistical divisions of North Queensland, Far North Queensland and North-West Queensland. Urban areas surrounding Townsville, Thuringowa and Cairns were not included.
The study methodology was centred on serious crashes, as defined by a resulting hospitalisation for 24 hours or more and/or a fatality. Crashes meeting this criteria within the North Queensland region between 1 March 2004 and 30 June 2007 were identified through hospital records and interviewed where possible. Additional data was sourced from coroner’s reports, the Queensland Transport road crash database, the Queensland Ambulance Service and the study hospitals in the region.-----
This report is divided into chapters corresponding to analyses conducted on the collected crash and casualty data.-----
Chapter 3 presents an overview of all crashes and casualties identified during the study period. Details are presented in regard to the demographics and road user types of casualties; the locations, times, types, and circumstances of crashes; along with the contributing circumstances of crashes.-----
Chapter 4 presents the results of summary statistics for all casualties for which an interview was able to be conducted. Statistics are presented separately for drivers and riders, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists. Details are also presented separately for drivers and riders crashing in off-road and on-road settings. Results from questionnaire data are presented in relation to demographics; the experience of the crash in narrative form; vehicle characteristics and maintenance; trip characteristics (e.g. purpose and length of journey; periods of fatigue and monotony; distractions from driving task); driving history; alcohol and drug use; medical history; driving attitudes, intentions and behaviour; attitudes to enforcement; and experience of road safety advertising.-----
Chapter 5 compares the above-listed questionnaire results between on-road crash-involved casualties and interviews conducted in the region with non-crash-involved persons. Direct comparisons as well as age and sex adjusted comparisons are presented.-----
Chapter 6 presents information on those casualties who were admitted to one of the study hospitals during the study period. Brief information is given regarding the demographic characteristics of these casualties. Emergency services’ data is used to highlight the characteristics of patient retrieval and transport to and between hospitals. The major injuries resulting from the crashes are presented for each region of the body and analysed by vehicle type, occupant type, seatbelt status, helmet status, alcohol involvement and nature of crash. Estimates are provided of the costs associated with in-hospital treatment and retrieval.-----
Chapter 7 describes the characteristics of the fatal casualties and the nature and circumstances of the crashes. Demographics, road user types, licence status, crash type and contributing factors for crashes are presented. Coronial data is provided in regard to contributing circumstances (including alcohol, drugs and medical conditions), cause of death, resulting injuries, and restraint and helmet use.-----
Chapter 8 presents the results of a comparison between casualties’ crash descriptions and police-attributed crash circumstances. The relative frequency of contributing circumstances are compared both broadly within the categories of behavioural, environmental, vehicle related, medical and other groupings and specifically for circumstances within these groups.-----
Chapter 9 reports on the associated research projects which have been undertaken on specific topics related to rural road safety.-----
Finally, Chapter 10 reports on the conclusions and recommendations made from the program of research.----
• Major Recommendations :
From the findings of these analyses, a number of major recommendations were made:
Male drivers and riders
- Male drivers and riders should continue to be the focus of interventions, given their very high representation among rural and remote road crash fatalities and serious injuries.-----
- The group of males aged between 30 and 50 years comprised the largest number of casualties and must also be targeted for change if there is to be a meaningful improvement in rural and remote road safety.-----
- Single vehicle motorcycle crashes constitute over 80% of serious, on-road rural motorcycle crashes and need particular attention in development of policy and infrastructure.-----
- The motorcycle safety consultation process currently being undertaken by Queensland Transport (via the "Motorbike Safety in Queensland - Consultation Paper") is strongly endorsed. As part of this process, particular attention needs to be given to initiatives designed to reduce rural and single vehicle motorcycle crashes.-----
- The safety of off-road riders is a serious problem that falls outside the direct responsibility of either Transport or Health departments. Responsibility for this issue needs to be attributed to develop appropriate policy, regulations and countermeasures.-----
Road safety for Indigenous people
- Continued resourcing and expansion of The Queensland Aboriginal Peoples and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Driver Licensing Program to meet the needs of remote and Indigenous communities with significantly lower licence ownership levels.-----
- Increased attention needs to focus on the contribution of geographic disadvantage (remoteness) factors to remote and Indigenous road trauma.-----
- Speed is the ‘final common pathway’ in determining the severity of rural and remote crashes and rural speed limits should be reduced to 90km/hr for sealed off-highway roads and 80km/hr for all unsealed roads as recommended in the Austroads review and in line with the current Tasmanian government trial.-----
- The Department of Main Roads should monitor rural crash clusters and where appropriate work with local authorities to conduct relevant audits and take mitigating action.
- The international experts at the workshop reviewed the data and identified the need to focus particular attention on road design management for dangerous curves. They also indicated the need to maximise the use of audio-tactile linemarking (audible lines) and rumble strips to alert drivers to dangerous conditions and behaviours.-----
- In accordance with Queensland Health priorities, recognition should be given to the substantial financial costs associated with acute management of trauma resulting from serious rural and remote crashes.-----
- Efforts should be made to develop a comprehensive, regionally specific costing formula for road trauma that incorporates the pre-hospital, hospital and post-hospital phases of care. This would inform health resource allocation and facilitate the evaluation of interventions.-----
- The commitment of funds to the development of preventive strategies to reduce rural and remote crashes should take into account the potential cost savings associated with trauma.-----
- A dedicated study of the rehabilitation needs and associated personal and healthcare costs arising from rural and remote road crashes should be undertaken.-----
- While the study has demonstrated considerable efficiency in the response and retrieval systems of rural and remote North Queensland, relevant Intelligent Transport Systems technologies (such as vehicle alarm systems) to improve crash notification should be both developed and evaluated.-----
- Alcohol and speed enforcement programs should target the period between 2 and 6pm because of the high numbers of crashes in the afternoon period throughout the rural region.-----
- Courtesy buses should be advocated and schemes such as the Skipper project promoted as local drink driving countermeasures in line with the very high levels of community support for these measures identified in the hospital study.------
- Programs should be developed to target the high levels of alcohol consumption identified in rural and remote areas and related involvement in crashes.-----
- Referrals to drink driving rehabilitation programs should be mandated for recidivist offenders.-----
- Rural and remote road crashes should receive the same quality of attention as urban crashes. As such, it is strongly recommended that increased resources be committed to enable dedicated Forensic Crash Units to investigate rural and remote fatal and serious injury crashes.-----
- Transport department records of rural and remote crashes should record the crash location using the national ARIA area classifications used by health departments as a means to better identifying rural crashes.-----
- Rural and remote crashes tend to be unnoticed except in relatively infrequent rural reviews. They should receive the same level of attention and this could be achieved if fatalities and fatal crashes were coded by the ARIA classification system and included in regular crash reporting.-----
- Health, Transport and Police agencies should collect a common, minimal set of data relating to road crashes and injuries, including presentations to small rural and remote health facilities.-----
Media and community education programmes
- Interventions seeking to highlight the human contribution to crashes should be prioritised. Driver distraction, alcohol and inappropriate speed for the road conditions are key examples of such behaviours.-----
- Promotion of basic safety behaviours such as the use of seatbelts and helmets should be given a renewed focus.-----
- Knowledge, attitude and behavioural factors that have been identified for the hospital Brief Intervention Trial should be considered in developing safety campaigns for rural and remote people. For example challenging the myth of the dangerous ‘other’ or ‘non-local’ driver.-----
- Special educational initiatives on the issues involved in rural and remote driving should be undertaken. For example the material used by Main Roads, the Australian Defence Force and local initiatives.
Impact and interest:
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