Weekends are the most dangerous time to be on the road according to new analysis by Compare the Market examining when fatal crashes are most likely to occur.
The review of data from between 1989 and 2021 found that in a typical week, most fatalities occur on a Saturday, with Fridays and Sundays also recording figures that were higher than average.
According to Professor Max Cameron from Monash University’s Accident Research Centre, weekend traffic is more social, has less congestion and more likely to occur at night, where there is a higher risk for crashes.
“Social driving is more likely to involve alcohol and drugs,” Professor Cameron said. “In urban areas during the weekend, people may be more inclined to speed, which can’t be done during the congestion we see on weekdays.”
Compare the Market’s research also found that across the year, August, November and December appear to be the most dangerous months for driving. When observing the average number of road fatalities from 2010 to 2020, there were 108 deaths in each month.
March and May are the next most dangerous, with each month recording 105 deaths on average.
Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q)’s Professor Teresa Senserrick added, “The dates where we see spikes in road deaths match with school holidays. This is why there is justification for double demerit points during those periods.”
Professor Cameron further adds, “There are more fatal crashes that occur during holidays. A key characteristic of fatal accidents is they usually involve higher speeds, and higher speeds are more common in rural areas, which also see more traffic during holiday periods, increasing the risk.”
Driving in remote or regional areas, compared to the city, can also influence the likelihood of a fatal accident. The quality of roads in combination with higher speed limits unfortunately mean that there are often more road deaths in rural areas. In the case of a crash, emergency services may also take longer to arrive.
Weather also plays a huge part in dangerous driving with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology noting that the northern and eastern coasts receive more rainy days from November to March, while the southern states see more wet weather in the winter months.
Professor Cameron said, “In some parts, rain is quite torrential, but when the rain first starts in Australia’s southern states, the roads often have a lot of dust on them. Rain turns that dust to mud, which is very slippery. Heavy torrential rain quickly clears the mud away.
“Motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians don’t tend to be on the roads during heavy rain so much, so there are fewer fatal crashes for these groups of road users, who are at a higher risk of dying in a crash compared to vehicle occupants.”
While there is already a downward trend in road fatalities, the Australian Government aims to reduce road deaths by half (to 689 deaths per year) as a part of the National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030.
So how does Australia stack up against others? Overall, Australia has a lower rate of road fatalities per 100,000 compared with countries like New Zealand, USA, UK, Italy, France, Germany, Norway, Canada and Ireland.
Most countries have seen a year-on-year decrease for their annual road casualties, with Norway having the smallest number of casualties (just under 1 person) per 100,000 people.