Walking safety – Australia vs the world

25 Jun 2021

How do we compare with other countries on road safety for people walking?

A new report from Victoria Walks looks at how Australia stacks up with the USA and four European countries.

We found Australia is doing better than the USA, but not as well as Europe. In 2018, there were 7.1 pedestrian fatalities per million people in Australia, compared to 19.0 in the USA, 6.8 in the UK, 5.5 in Germany, 5.2 in Denmark and 3.2 in the Netherlands.

Long term, the trends are positive in all of the countries, with the number of pedestrian fatalities per capita in Australia dropping by a similar proportion to the European countries and much better than the USA. However, most of the improvement in Australia occurred many years ago as initiatives like speed cameras, red light cameras and random breath testing were rolled out.

Our analysis, which builds on an international study, looks at a variety of factors behind the differences between countries.

Key findings include:

  • Australia is more like the US than Europe in terms of speed limits, which are high by world standards. In Victoria, 77% of people killed while walking are hit on roads with a speed limit of 60 km/h or more.
  • Australian drivers averaged 10,128 km per capita in 2018, much less than those in the US (15,800 km) but more than Europe (ranging from 5-8,000 km).
  • The larger the vehicle, the higher the risk to people walking. Like the USA, Australia has an addiction to big ones, with SUVs making up half of new vehicle sales and vans and utes another 22%.
  • The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have the same blood alcohol limit as Australia, but in those countries alcohol related road deaths make up between 5% and 13% of all fatalities, compared to an estimated 30% here.
  • In Australia 64% of people in a federal government survey reported using their mobile phone while driving, similar to the USA. In the UK, 21% of adults reported using their phone while driving, with 39% in Germany and 49% in the Netherlands.

If we want to improve, the evidence clearly shows we should take our cues from Europe. Australian governments need to take steps to reduce urban speed limits and build cities that support walking, cycling and public transport rather than more driving. The push to reduce drinking and mobile phone use while driving needs to continue.

Read our report