This fatal Bruce Highway crash resulted in three occupants of this Hyundai Sonata being taken to hospital.
This fatal Bruce Highway crash resulted in three occupants of this Hyundai Sonata being taken to hospital. Craig Warhurst

Injury rates our hidden road toll

OUR roads are becoming safer in some ways, but in other respects the human cost of vehicle crashes continues to soar.

Gympie driver educator Graham Smith said the latest information he had indicated improved ambulance services, including highly trained paramedics and helicopter rescue services, were reducing the death toll as a proportion of population and in terms of the rate per kilometre travelled.

But the often permanent cost of severe injuries suffered by survivors was the hidden demon in our crash statistics, he said.

Mr Smith returned last week from the Australasian Road Safety Research, Policing and Education Conference in Canberra.

A long-time Gympie road safety advocate and associate fellow of the Australian College of Road Safety, Mr Smith said accident statistics usually focused on fatalities.

But too often we miss the appalling cost of injuries, many of them crippling and permanent.

Mr Smith quoted American speaker Tom Vanderbilt, who told the conference: “Driving is an incredibly demanding task. Vehicles move at speeds for which we have no evolutionary training. We are engaged in a huge amount of sensory and cognitive activity (the full scope of which scientists are just beginning to understand),” he said.

“Traffic congestion throughout the developed world has slowed vehicle speeds (reducing fatalities but increasing crash rates) and safer cars, safer roads and improved medical attention has produced fewer fatalities but increased permanent disability from crash trauma.”

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