Pedestrians comprise about one in every seven fatalities on Australian roads. Figure 1 shows that of 1,444 pedestrian fatalities throughout Australia between 1998 and 2002, 553 (38 per cent) were males aged 15 to 54 and 449 (31 per cent) were males and females aged 65+. Each of these contributions was well above what would be expected on the basis of population share.
As a result, this monograph focuses on fatalities among male pedestrians aged between 15 and 54 years and not the much smaller number of female fatalities.
This monograph is intended to complement Monograph 13, which provides an overview of fatalities among elderly pedestrians.
Information extracted from the ATSBs holdings of coronial documentation is summarised here for male pedestrians aged 15 to 54 involved in fatal collisions between 1997 and 1999 (the latest years for which detailed ATSB fatal road crash information is available).
These collisions occurred mostly between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am, particularly at the end of the working week and on weekends (see Fig. 2), and were attributable to alcohol or other drugs in about two of every three instances.
Toxicology results for the deceased male pedestrians indicated a predominance of alcohol intoxication and the frequent presence of cannabinoids.
Seventy per cent of the male pedestrians had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that would have made them ineligible to be in control of a motor vehicle. Of even greater concern is the extreme nature of these BACs. Five of every six alcohol-affected pedestrians had a BAC of 0.15 gm/100ml or greater (see Fig. 3).
Heavy intoxication is reflected in the manner in which many of the pedestrians came into collision with a vehicle. About one in every three of the pedestrians had been struck while simply standing or lying on the road. About one in every four pedestrians had been struck by the wheel or undercarriage of a vehicle.
Although the majority of fatal collisions occurred within cities and towns, the incidence of collisions out of town was much greater than would be expected on the basis of the population of those areas.
- Males aged 15 to 54 contributed 38 per cent of all pedestrian fatalities between 1998 and 2002.
- Coronial records from 1997 to 1999 indicate that fatal collisions involving these pedestrians occurred mostly between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am, particularly at the end of the working week and on weekends. In two of every three cases, the primary cause was intoxication with alcohol or other drugs, predominantly on the part of the pedestrian.
- The results of toxicology tests indicated that 70 per cent of the deceased male pedestrians had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that would have made them ineligible to be in control of a motor vehicle. A large majority of these alcohol-affected pedestrians (five of every six) had high-range BACs of 0.15 gm/100ml or greater.
- Although a precise picture of the prevalence of other drugs could not be obtained due to lack of relevant tests for about one in every three of the deceased, a significant incidence of some drugs was nevertheless apparent. These included cannabinoids (detected in 24 per cent of tests); benzodiazepine tranquillisers (five per cent); amphetamines (four per cent) and heroin/methadone (four per cent).
- Heavy intoxication is reflected in the manner in which many of the pedestrians came into collision with vehicles. While 43 per cent of the pedestrians had been struck while crossing the road, 33 per cent had been struck while standing or lying on the road rather than attempting a crossing. (In 24 per cent of cases the pedestrian had been struck by the wheel or undercarriage of a vehicle).
- Only one in every 14 pedestrians attempting to cross the road had been doing so at a pedestrian crossing or other controlled location. In at least 16 per cent of cases, a pedestrian crossing or an intersection controlled by traffic lights had been available within 100 metres of the person attempting to cross the road, but had not been used.
- Although the majority of these pedestrian fatalities occurred within cities and towns, the incidence of collisions out of town was much greater than would be expected on the basis of the population of those areas. Rural highways accounted for 19 per cent of collisions and other out-of-town rural roads accounted for 10 per cent of fatal collisions.
- Whereas males aged 15 to 54 contribute one in every three pedestrian fatalities in the cities and towns, they contribute two in every three pedestrian fatalities out of town.
- Indigenous Australians contributed 30 (14 per cent) of the 217 fatalities for which coronial documentation provided information on ethnic background, a much higher proportion than the groups representation in the Australian population (2.5 per cent). (Given that ethnicity was unstated for 142 fatalities, this finding should be interpreted with some caution.)
- Primary responsibility for the collision was assessed as fully attributable to the pedestrian in 76 per cent of cases and partly attributable to the pedestrian in an additional 12 per cent of cases.
- According to the coronial material, only a small proportion of the deaths (eight per cent) stemmed from risky road use on the part of the driver.
Type: Research and Analysis Report
Sub Type: ATSB Monograph
Topics: Fatality, Gender, Pedestrian
Publication Date: 01/01/03