WHILE the number of deaths on Australian roads fell over the past decade, fatalities on Queensland and New South Wales roads climbed last year.
The latest Road Deaths Australia figures, released last week, revealed an unusual increase in the road toll in both states last year.
In the past decade, fatalities on Queensland roads fell 2.1%, but rose 4.1% last year, while the number of deaths in NSW fell 4.2% over the past 10 years, only to rise 3.3% in 2012.
The figures also show drivers in rural and remote areas remained more likely to die in a car crash than urban drivers.
Of the total road toll in 2011, 700 people were killed in rural areas, making up 48% of all fatalities, despite regional areas having only one-third of the nation's population.
Many of the deaths on Queensland and NSW in recent years were on the Bruce and Pacific Hwys - which both remain the two worst-rated national highways under the Australian Road Assessment Program.
According to the National Road Safety Strategy, road trauma costs the economy an estimated $27 billion every year - a figure which may be vastly underestimated.
But president of the Australasian College of Road Safety Lauchlan McIntosh said the real figure could be much higher.
He said with many areas associated with road trauma costs, such as health care, insurance and productivity, remained unassessed.
Mr McIntosh met with senior government and opposition figures in Canberra last week to push the case for a Productivity Commission inquiry into the wider costs of road trauma.
While the politicians made no commitments, Mr McIntosh said the ACRS 2013 submission was well-received and "started the conversation".
He said while the government figure was robust, the full costs of road trauma on the community were not being factored in.
"I'm not sure we've got a real grasp of how wide the costs are, some would be paid under health care, some in insurance, and others under police and hospital records," he said.
"And that's only the economic costs - road trauma is such a huge, terrible problem for those involved, and we don't take that into account."
Mr McIntosh said while many deaths on rural roads could be prevented by road widening, better line marking and design, the government needed to know the full cost trauma in order to do something about it.
"While we haven't got any commitments from the parliament yet, we're in the room talking about what needs to be done," he said.
"A lot of deaths come down to narrow roads - you don't need a four-lane highway everywhere - better signage and better consistency in speed management is often more important.
"All I can say we're in the room, we're not being told it won't work, but we're not being given any guarantees from either side of politics at the moment."
ROAD TRAUMA COSTS:
- $27 billion a year
- 25 people die on roads each week
- 600 people seriously injured on roads each week
- 700 killed on rural roads each year
- 48% of fatalities on rural roads each year
- 46% of work-related deaths involve vehicles
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