Australia vs England: Road Safety

Driving in Australia. Is it a safer?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about driving in Australia and the RBT. I ended that post by saying “But hopefully, because of these RBT’s, Australia’s roads are safer. I am only guessing.” Well, I sure was guessing!


  • 3,201 people were killed on Britain’s roads in 2005.
  • 28,954 people were seriously injured on Britain’s roads in the same year.


  • 1,464 people were killed on Australia’s roads in 2008.
  • 31,204 people were seriously injured on Australia’s roads in 2005/06.

Both of these sets of figures came from the respective countries governments, so they have a good chance of being accurate. As Britain’s population is about three times bigger than Australia’s, it is clear that Australia’s roads are far more dangerous than those in Britain.

Let’s look at it this way. If Australia could match Britain in road safety terms, then roughly speaking around 400 fewer people would die and more than 20,000 would escape serious injury.

Road safety is improving here, back in 1982 there were around 3,300 deaths in Australia on the road, but Australia clearly has a long way to go yet to catch up with the UK. The frequent RBT’s and the high levels of driving experience required before passing your test in Australia have obviously been put into place to continue to improve road safety.

So what’s the problem? One would have thought with the big wide open roads and very little traffic, it would be much safer here. Here I go, guessing again, but I suspect the big wide open roads and very little traffic ARE the problem.

Open Roads

Open Roads

You can really put your foot down on some of these Australian roads, in a way that I don’t think you can in too many places in Britain. And the problem is, people do.

It certainly puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it? As I’ve pointed out in my post about spiders and snakes, less than two deaths a year from snakes and none since 1979 for spiders. But an extra 400 deaths a year on the roads? Yet when anyone talks about emigrating to Australia, nobody says “Man, are you nuts? Be careful of those cars, they’re dangerous in Australia.”

Woosh! So that was winter?

For anyone who thinks I talk too much about the weather, well I’m English! It’s what we do. It’s a classic for changing the subject. And that’s what I’m going to do now. So this is a blog post equivalent of “terrible about all those deaths on the road isn’t it?” “Hmmm, yes, nice weather we’re having isn’t it?”

Last week it was the middle of winter, apparently. This week is like the beginning of summer. Yes, already it is getting hotter.

Google Weather 15th - 18th  August

Is Winter Over?

I heard the first call of a gecko a few days ago, so they’re waking up. This has been an unusually warm winter, the meteorologists have been getting out the record books. Some places have recorded temperatures of 8° to 10°c hotter than usual.

It’s going to be a long hot summer!

Visa Assessment Service
{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Richard Marte January 29, 2024, 11:01 am |

    Hey this is one based on actual experience on the road in both countries. I’ve lived in the UK for 7 years, everyday driving to and from work and basically everywhere else including driving my wife in the same manner. Drivers were courteous, patient and skillful. Now I’ve lived in Australia for the last 16 years. Point of comparison: over there 7 years and less than 5 accidents seen, heard on the road and in the news. Here, less than a year of driving and accidents here far outnumbered those over there in 7 years. I should know. Been driving Uber full time for the last 6 years on these roads too. The number of ridiculous, impatient and appalling bad drivers are enormous regardless of sex or age, its funny if not so serious. So many senseless deaths too. My take on the Australian system: defective defective driver training and low standard of passing threshold and a road system that encourages bad, dangerous habits.

    • BobinOz January 29, 2024, 9:13 pm |

      Sadly the statistics back you up on this Richard. 1266 people were killed on the roads in Australia in all of 2023 and over a similar one year period ending June 2023 there were 1633 fatalities in the UK. Considering their population is three times that of here in Australia, the senseless deaths in this country are comparatively higher.

      Personally I think a lot of it is to do with the roads here in Australia allow for greater speed, whereas the smaller roads and heavier traffic in the UK make people drive slower. Most accidents here seem to be down to bad decision-making and/or people driving too fast.

  • Andrea March 20, 2016, 3:14 pm |

    Everyone will probably disagree, but I think it is partly road courtesy – lack of in Australia. Over the last few years we have have travelled to U.K. and Europe and hired cars. I was gobsmacked by how polite and ready to hang back to allow people to get into a flow of traffic etc. Because of the high density traffic and funny little roads people no you just can’t go barging your way around – they wait pull over and let the other one pass etc. Here in Australia it’s every man for himself. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the city or country. I have driven in every capital city and across the country from Melbourne to Fitzroy Crossing we generally just like to go hard and fast and just get where we are going so don’t get in my way. That’s a generalisation of course, there are loads of polite drivers but they just aren’t the majority.
    I was also shocked when we ame home about how many cop cars we have cruising around… about 4:1 compared with O.S.

    • BobinOz March 21, 2016, 8:54 pm |

      Well, yes, I disagree but that’s based only on my experiences of driving around the UK for many many years and comparing that with the driving I’ve done here in Australia. For the very most part, I find Australian drivers are happy to take turns and do one for one in merging traffic.

      Yes, sometimes when I join a motorway a car already on its might speed up rather than let me join ahead of it, but I still think those people are in the minority.

      The Daily Mail disagrees as well:

      UK retains road rage title

      The UK is still the road rage capital of the world, according to latest figures.
      Nearly nine in 10 UK drivers said they had been road rage victims at least once, a survey has found.
      Road rage had been experienced more than 10 times, 20% of those interviewed said, with more than 70% committing the offence themselves.
      The latest statistics backed up a recent Gallup poll which showed Britain was the leading country in the world for road rage, with 80.4% of UK drivers being victims of it.

      Read more:

      I’m not saying Australian drivers are all gentlemen of the road, I think the majority are reasonably courteous, and a minority are a pain. But that’s the same in most countries, and worse in some. Oh, I almost forgot, Google ‘road rage deaths in the UK’ and you’ll find there is quite a list.

  • john burton February 6, 2014, 6:47 am |

    whats thr drink driving culture like over there?
    its fairly minimal in the uk apart from out in the sticks where i am then it goes on alot more!
    the general standard of driving in the uk is generally ok but with far too much really poor situational awareness, so many people have got no idea whatsoever whats going on around them!

    • BobinOz February 6, 2014, 4:58 pm |

      They are very hot on drink-driving out here, see…

      Driving in Australia and the RBT

      That’s in the cities though mainly I would think, remote Australia is probably the same as out in the sticks in the UK.

  • pete taylor January 17, 2014, 4:34 am |

    You have some daft things in OZ, how about turning right on the roads in Melbourne, [where the trams are ]starting on the left hand side.
    real fear just watching the action, never tried it myself
    thanks for the info keep it coming pete

    • BobinOz January 17, 2014, 1:30 pm |

      Yes, we do have some daft things in Oz, but that is a daft thing that happens only in Melbourne as far as I’m aware. Weird, isn’t it?

    • Ivan February 19, 2014, 11:45 pm |

      Pete, this system has worked well for many years but you need to be aware of it! At the five city intersections where the tramlines cross you are required to do a “hook turn”, keeping left until the lights change. This is to keep the tramlines clear for trams so you don’t hold them up while you are in the centre lane waiting for the lights to change. Clear as mud??? Yes, Melbourne is the only known place where this happens.

  • Joe January 10, 2014, 12:54 pm |

    In Australia the car is sacred and it is very difficult to even discuss road safety. I think the attitudes and the safety awareness is very different here than in Northern Europe. This is not only the case with Australian drivers, but also with politicians, with some claiming road safety has nothing to do with bad roads, only with bad drivers (Minister for Road Safety, Tom Kenyon, 2011).
    On top of that I would find it hard to believe Australian cars would even be sellable anywhere else, considering the low safety standards.
    But I’m sure this will change

    • BobinOz January 10, 2014, 2:55 pm |

      A minister really sad that? Good grief!

    • Ivan February 19, 2014, 11:33 pm |

      To be fair, Toyota sells 60% of its Melbourne made cars overseas, and Holden exports Commodores to the USA where they are re-badged as Chevrolets. Only Ford seems to be very lax about exports, maybe that’s why they were the first to announce their closure.

  • Ilias November 1, 2012, 8:32 pm |

    I know I am late in my comment here but most accidents and road deaths actually occur within metropolitan areas, high speed city roads, not highways or Freeways. That is not true only for Australia but for most countries. Highways/freeways without interchanges and oncoming traffic are safer than any other roads.

    I am more worried driving 60km/h-80km/h on St. Kilda Rd or Princess Highway in Melbourne than 160km/h or 180km/h on a German Autobahn or at the speed limit on the M4 in the UK.

    Another factor that I suspect has a big impact is that in Australia so many people from so many different countries have learned to drive in different countries around the world. So “common sense” driving varies and it creates difficulties and ultimately collisions and accidents. Now in a country like the UK or Germany or France most people have learned how to drive in the same one system and that is more effective.

    By the way I openly contradict Vicroads statement that speed kills. There are real life examples that this is not the case. Compare Oz with Germany, Germany has about 2600 deaths on the roads a year, that is with about 50+ million vehicle on the road and a population of 82million all that on much higher avg speeds than Australia. Another reasonable argument to contradict that statement is that traveling by plane is the safest mode of transportation and it is usually done at 850km/h.

    So long…

    • BobinOz November 2, 2012, 6:05 pm |

      Interesting views, and there probably are more accidents in metropolitan areas than in more remote areas, just because there are more cars about in those busy areas. But the Bruce Highway is one of the most dangerous roads in Australia with, I believe, more deaths on it per year than any other road.

      That’s not in any metropolitan areas, and sometimes accidents happen when no other car is involved, basically people nodding off and veering off into a tree or, even worse, if even one other car is coming along in the other direction, veering head on into them. That’s why drivers are advised to stop every 2 hours and revive themselves with a cup of coffee and a break.

  • Jenny October 19, 2011, 2:54 pm |

    I think another factor in Australia is that people are traveling further and there isn’t always much in between. I live in the central west of NSW and it’s 400kms to Sydney. People out here will frequently drive there for a weekend.

    With big trips you also get people doing long days of driving with the resulting fatigue and twilight encounters with roos. People are very resistant to slower speed limits when a trip is already going to take five or six or eight or ten hours.

    • BobinOz October 19, 2011, 7:17 pm |

      Yes, you are right, it’s a big problem. We have long stretches of road where very little happens, not even a traffic light or a roundabout for miles. Ideal for dozing off.

      And those roos should really learn how to cross the road!

      • Ivan February 19, 2014, 11:28 pm |

        This is the reason the Northern Territory is lifting its speed limits. Over a decade ago there was no speed limit on the open road in the NT, then the Federal Govt. made them impose a speed limit or lose Federal road funding. Fatilities occurred around the towns, rather than on the open road where an enforced low speed limit in the NT climate is a recipe for drowsiness. Fortunately the roos don’t usually venture out until dusk. (They’ve been trained)!!!

        • BobinOz February 20, 2014, 9:43 pm |

          No speed limit? That’s kind of asking for trouble I would think. Nice to hear they are now falling in line with the rest of the world 🙂

  • BobinOz February 13, 2010, 9:26 pm |

    You are right John, it looks like Britain’s roads are getting safer. This is probably just a natural byproduct of traffic congestion. Or has the government run a successful television ad campaign? Hmm. I doubt it.

    Anyway, in 2007 the death toll was 2,946 and in 2008 it had fallen to 2,538. So Australia clearly is the country with the most dangerous roads, but assuming you don’t have an accident here, you will get to your destination faster.

    But for both countries, the figures are scary. You’ve made an interesting point, you’d need about six plane crashes a year in the UK and three or four plane crashes a year in Australia to get to those numbers. Would anybody fly if that happened?

    Yet none of us think anything about getting into our cars.

    PS. Near? What did I get wrong?

  • John Wilkes February 13, 2010, 11:44 am |

    Could you please up-date your figures for U.K. road deaths , it’s now considerably lower than those for 2005……I think it’s closer to 2600…..still too many . If countries had that number of train or ‘plane deaths there would be a national outcry . P.S. Your site is almost near to brilliant !

  • BobinOz August 22, 2009, 5:24 pm |

    Thats a good point, you don’t “seem” to have to be so alert to drive around here. Driving in England, you really do have to keep your wits about you. So I can see how that can cause extra accidents.
    I heard about the shooting incident, very bad and fortunately very rare.

  • Bruce Moon August 22, 2009, 8:58 am |

    I reckon the problem in Oz is not the wide open spaces. To me, its the lack of competition for roadspace.

    When ever I travel overseas, I notice that fewer drivers nod off regarding other users. Everywhere, the driver is alert to someone doing something potentially stupid and is generally ready to take appropriate action.

    Here in Oz, the clowns seem to believe that the bit of road they are using is theirs, and theirs alone. Pity anyone that comes onto THEIR bit of road. We’ve even had a driver shot because he had the audacity to criticise another driver!!!

    That said, the sad fact is that Oz drivers don’t take enough care to be alert, and accidents thus follow.


Leave a Comment

If your comment doesn’t get answered, find out why…..
FAQs and Comment Policy.