Back to the 90s – SA’s worst year for cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists in 25 years

30 January, 2024

RAA analysis of SA crash data has revealed 2023 was the worst year for vulnerable road user deaths in 25 years – prompting a plea for road users to keep doing their bit to avoid a repeat this year.

A total of 117 lives were lost on South Australian roads last year – the highest number since 2010 – and 50 of those were vulnerable road users (cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists).

That’s the highest combined number of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists lost since 1998 (when 52 were killed), and 61% higher than the five-year average (2018-2022) of 31.

In metropolitan Adelaide, 33 vulnerable road users lost their lives in 2023, more than double the five-year average of 16.

RAA Chief Executive Officer Nick Reade said each life lost on our roads had a profound and tragic impact on the families, friends, emergency services workers and any survivors left behind.

“Last year it seemed we were hearing of another fatal crash every few days, and this data shows us just how alarming 2023 was, particularly in terms of our most vulnerable road users,” Mr Reade said.

“Each of these fatalities is more than just a number or a news report, they’re a lost loved one that leaves a hole in a South Australian family, so we can’t afford to simply put 2023 behind us and put it down to an aberration.

“Each life lost on our roads is avoidable, and through investment in infrastructure, vehicles, education and awareness campaigns, we know we can create improvement and hopefully reach the National Road Safety Strategy target of a 50% reduction in lives lost by 2030.

“But right now we are not on track to meet that target, so we need to make changes for the better – as road safety advocates, governments and as individuals.”

Mr Reade said while the introduction of safer roads, speed limits and vehicles had led to a gradual reduction in serious crashes in the last 20-30 years, this trend had begun to plateau even before 2023’s alarming spike.

“Since the early 2010s, South Australian fatal crash numbers have not decreased anywhere near as much as during the period before 2010, which should not be happening, given what we now know about road safety,” Mr Reade said.

“One of the most important factors is the mindset of South Australians who share the road each day.

“Typically distraction and inattention are the leading cause of fatal crashes, highlighting the need for drivers, riders and pedestrians alike to be fully focused when they’re sharing the road.”

Mr Reade also said RAA, along with the Australian Automobile Association and other motoring clubs across the country, had been advocating for more detailed crash data to be made public, to help road safety authorities analyse crash causes and target campaigns more effectively.

“We would like to see better availability of crash data to help us to understand why crashes are occurring and assist in focussing strategies and actions,” Mr Reade said.

“For example we often don’t learn the contributing factors of crashes – such as distraction and excessive speed – and it can take up to 18 months after the crash to receive detailed crash data for analysis.

“If this data was made public in a more timely fashion, we could better analyse driver behaviour, raise more awareness in the community and more effectively target campaigns – in the hope of improving outcomes and saving lives.”