OR 22: Estimating road trauma in the Australian indigenous population


This report compares the annual road death rate of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in three jurisdictions, which currently collect this information, and then estimates the Indigenous road toll Australia-wide. Two conclusions can be drawn from the analyses in this report. First, road crashes account for a greater proportion of all deaths in the Indigenous population than the non-Indigenous population. Secondly, based on the Australian Indigenous road death estimates the road death rate in the Indigenous population may be three times higher than that of the non-Indigenous population.

Since 1994, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has published data on the causes of death in the Indigenous populations of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Over the period 1994 to 1997, road crashes represented 5.6% of all deaths in the combined Indigenous populations of these jurisdictions. This is comparable to diabetes (6.7%) and stroke (6.3%) as a major cause of death. In contrast, road crashes are the lowest ranking of the main causes of death for the non-Indigenous populations in the same jurisdictions, making up only 1.7% of all causes of death.

The number of deaths for every 100,000 population is a measure of public health risk associated with road use. The available mortality data is used in conjunction with population data to generate road death rates for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory. The total road crash death rate over the four years is 39 deaths per 100,000 Indigenous persons and 12 deaths per 100,000 non-Indigenous persons.

The available road death data and the estimated Indigenous population for each of Australia’s States and Territories were then used to estimate the number of Indigenous road deaths Australia-wide. Two methods were employed. The first is a simple pro-rata method and the second (preferred method) takes into account possible differences in the road death rates between each of the States and Territories.

Using the second method it is estimated that in 1997 there were 31 Indigenous deaths per 100,000 population. This is three times the estimate for the non-Indigenous population (10 deaths per 100,000 population). The simple pro-rata method results in a slightly higher estimate of Indigenous deaths (35 deaths per 100,000 population).

Reliable data on the extent of road trauma are required to develop adequate road safety countermeasures. There is a clear need for improved information on the extent of involvement of Indigenous people in serious road crashes. The Commonwealth is currently supporting an initiative which should assist in meeting this goal. The National Coronial Information System, under development by Monash University, will allow the identification Australia-wide of injury deaths involving Indigenous people.

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Type: Research and Analysis Report
Sub Type: Other Report
Author(s): McFadden M, McKie K and Mwesigye S-E
ISBN: 0 642 25597 0
ISSN: 0158-3077
Topics: Crash data, Indigenous
Publication Date: 15/01/00