Transport is part of our daily lives and a major component of the economy. However, every year, thousands of Australians are hurt or die in road and other transport accidents, most commonly while in a car, or on a motorcycle or bicycle.

In 2019–20, transport injuries resulted in around:

62,700 hospitalisations

245 per 100,000 population

1,300 deaths

5.2 per 100,000 population

This represents 12% of injury hospitalisations and 9.9% of injury deaths. Males and young people are particularly at risk, and fracture is the most common type of injury sustained in hospitalised cases.

This report summarises data on unintentional transport injuries resulting in hospitalisation or death. Intentional injuries are included under Self-harm injuries and suicide or Assault and homicide.

Modes of transport involved in injury hospitalisations

In 2019–20, almost a third of transport injury hospitalisations were for car occupants (31%) and almost a quarter (24%) were for motorcyclists (Table 1).

Table 1: Modes of transport involved in injury hospitalisations, 2019–20

Mode of transport

Number

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

Car occupants (V40–49)

19,752

31

77

Motorcyclists (V20–29)

15,110

24

59

Pedal cyclists (V10–19)

14,584

23

57

Pedestrian (V00–09)

3,636

6

14

Other or unspecified (V30–39, V50–99)

9,655

15

38

Total

62,737

100

246

Notes

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
  2. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.
  3. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10-AM (11th edition) external cause codes (ACCD 2019).

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see Data tables B1–2.

Modes of transport involved in injury deaths

In 2019–20, half of transport injury deaths were for car occupants (51%) and about 1 in 6 (16%) were for motorcyclists (Table 2).

Table 2: Modes of transport involved in injury deaths, 2019–20

Mode of transport

Number

%

Rate
(per 100,000)

Car occupants (V40–49)

678

51

2.7

Motorcyclists (V20–29)

209

16

0.8

Pedestrian (V01–09)

180

14

0.7

Pedal cyclists (V10–19)

55

4

0.2

Other or unspecified (V30–39, V50–99)

210

16

0.8

Total

1,332

100

5.2

Notes

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
  2. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.
  3. Codes in brackets refer to the ICD-10 external cause codes (WHO 2011).

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

For more detail, see Data tables E1–2.

Seasonality and COVID-19

Hospital admissions due to transport injuries suggest some patterns over the year. There are two peaks per year, in October and April, potentially due to increased traffic in school holidays.

In March 2020 the first lockdowns and social distancing measures associated with COVID-19 interrupted the usual activity of many Australians. In April 2020 the number of hospital admissions due to transport injuries was noticeably lower than previous years, and there were 11% fewer from March to May than the same period of the previous year (Figure 1). As initial restrictions eased, transport injuries rose and by June were higher than the same month of previous years.

See the interactive COVID-19 display for data and further discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on hospital admissions.

Figure 1: Transport injury hospitalisations by month, 2017–18 to 2019–20

Notes
1. Months have been standardised to 31 days.
2. A scale up factor has been applied to June admissions to account for cases not yet separated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Trends over time

The age-standardised rate of hospitalisations due to transport injuries in 2019–20 was 2.5% lower than a year earlier. This decrease appears to be due to the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing.

Over the period from 2009–10 to 2016–17 there was an average annual rise of 0.5% for the age-standardised rate of hospitalisations. There is a break in the time series for hospitalisations between 2016–17 and 2017–18 due to a change in data collection methods (see the Technical notes for details).

For transport deaths, the age-standardised rate for 2019–20 was 8.0% lower than a year earlier. The average annual change in rate between 2010–11 and 2019–20 was -3.7% (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Transport injury hospitalisations and deaths, by sex, 2010–11 to 2019–20

The visualisation features 2 matching line graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The 3 lines represent the trend for males, females and persons. The reader can select to display rate per 100,000 population or number.

For more detail, see Data tables C1–7 and F1–4.

Variation by age and sex

Rates of transport injury hospitalisation and death differ for males and females, especially for certain age groups (Figure 3). In 2019–20:

  • 2 in 3 hospitalisations (67%) and 3 in 4 deaths (77%) were for males
  • the age-standardised rates of hospitalisation were 336 cases per 100,000 males, and 160 per 100,000 females
  • the age-standardised rates of death were 7.9 per 100,000 males, and 2.2 per 100,000 females
  • young people aged 15–24 had the highest rates of hospitalisation
  • people aged 65 and over had the highest rate of death.

Figure 3: Transport injury hospitalisations and deaths, by age group and sex, 2019–20

The visualisation features 2 matching column graphs on separate tabs, 1 for hospitalisations and 1 for deaths. The columns represent sex within 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display either age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The default displays males and females and the reader can also select to display persons.

For more detail, see Data tables A1–3 and D1–3.

Severity

There are many ways that the severity, or seriousness, of an injury can be measured. Using available data, three measures of the severity of hospitalised injuries are:

  • number of days in hospital
  • time in an intensive care unit (ICU)
  • time on a ventilator.

The average number of days in hospital for transport injuries was similar to the average for all hospitalised injuries in 2019–20, while the percentages of cases that included time in an ICU and cases that involved continuous ventilatory support were both higher (Table 3).

Table 3: Severity of transport injury hospitalisations, 2019–20

 

Transport injuries

All injuries

Average number of days in hospital

4.7

4.5

% of cases with time in an ICU

3.9

2.4

% of cases involving ventilator

2.2

1.4

Note: Average number of days in hospital (length of stay) includes admissions that are transfers from 1 hospital to another or transfers from 1 admitted care type to another within the same hospital, except where care involves rehabilitation procedures.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see Data table A12–13.

Types of injuries sustained

In 2019–20, the head and neck was the body part most often identified as the principal site of injury in transport hospitalisations (Figure 4), although this varies by type of transport. In part, it may reflect the inherently more serious nature of head and neck injuries.  

Figure 4: Transport injury hospitalisations by principal body part injured, 2019–20

The visualisation features an outline of a person with labels for body parts accounting for hospitalisations due to transport crashes. Injuries to the head and neck accounted for the most hospitalisations, while the ankle and foot accounted for the fewest.

Note: Body part refers to the principal reason for hospitalisation. Number and percentage of injuries classified as Other, multiple and incompletely specified body regions or Injuries not described in terms of body region not shown—see Data table A11.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

For more detail, see Data table A11.

Fractures were by far the most common type of injury for people who were hospitalised due to a transport accident (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Transport injury hospitalisations by type of injury, 2019–20

Bar graph showing type of injury sustained by category and by sex. Fracture was the most common for both males and females but more than twice as frequent for males. Open wound was second for males, while superficial injury was second for female. The reader can select to display either the crude rate per 100,000 population or the number of cases. The default display shows data for males and females, and the reader can also select to display for persons.

For more detail, see Data table A10.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In 2019–20, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • there were 3,100 hospitalisations and 86 deaths due to transport accidents (Tables 4 and 5)
  • males were twice as likely as females to be hospitalised and 2.5 times as likely to die due to transport accidents
  • hospitalisation rates were highest among people aged 15–24 (Figure 5).
Table 4: Number and rate of transport injury hospitalisations by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

2,076

1,007

3,084

Rate (per 100,000)

487

236

361

Note: Rates are crude per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 5: Number and rate of transport injury deaths by sex, Indigenous Australians, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Number

61

25

86

Rate (per 100,000)

16.2

6.6

11.4

Notes

  1. Rates are crude per 100,000 population.
  2. Deaths data only includes data for New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

For more detail, see Data tables A4–5 and D4–5.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

In 2019–20, Indigenous Australians were:

  • 1.5 times as likely to be hospitalised due to a transport accident, compared with non-Indigenous Australians (Table 6)
  • 2.5 times as likely to die in a transport accident, compared with non-Indigenous Australians (Table 7).
Table 6: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of transport injury hospitalisations by Indigenous status and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

476

239

357

Non-Indigenous Australians

326

156

241

Notes

  1. Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.
  2. ‘Non-Indigenous Australians’ excludes cases where Indigenous status is missing or not stated.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 7: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of transport injury deaths by Indigenous status and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Indigenous Australians

17.8

6.6

12.1

Non-Indigenous Australians

7.8

2.1

4.9

Notes

  1. Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.
  2. ‘Non-Indigenous Australians’ excludes cases where Indigenous status is missing or not stated.
  3. Deaths data only includes data for people whose usual residence was New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

The age-specific rate of transport injury hospitalisations was highest among the 15–24 age group for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians (Figure 6). Deaths data are not presented because of small numbers.

Figure 6: Transport injury hospitalisations, by Indigenous status, by age group and sex, 2019–20

The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisations. The columns represent data for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.

For more detail, see Data tables A4–6 and D4–8.

Remoteness

In 2019–20, people living in Very remote areas, compared with people living in Major cities, were:

  • 2.4 times as likely to be hospitalised by a transport accident (Table 8)
  • 6.0 times as likely to die in a transport accident (Table 9).
Table 8: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of transport injury hospitalisations by remoteness and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

281

134

207

Inner regional

437

206

321

Outer regional

501

229

367

Remote

617

266

448

Very remote

648

322

494

Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database.

Table 9: Age-standardised rates (per 100,000) of transport injury deaths by remoteness and sex, 2019–20

 

Males

Females

Persons

Major cities

5.0

1.4

3.3

Inner regional

12.9

3.4

8.1

Outer regional

18.4

5.2

11.8

Remote

16.2

n.p.

10.8

Very remote

24.5

n.p.

19.1

n.p. Not published because of small numbers, confidentiality or other concerns about the quality of the data.

Note: Rates are age-standardised per 100,000 population.

Source: AIHW National Mortality Database.

The highest age-specific rate of transport injury hospitalisation cases was among the 15–24 age group living in Very remote areas of Australia. (Figure 7).

Deaths data are not presented in Figure 7 because of small numbers.

Figure 7: Transport injury hospitalisations, by remoteness, by age group and sex, 2019–20

The visualisation features a column graph for hospitalisations. The columns represent data for each of the 5 remoteness categories by 6 life-stage age groups. The reader can select to display age-specific rate per 100,000 population or number. The reader can also select to display data for persons, males or females.

For more detail, see Data tables A7–9 and D9–10.

For information on how statistics by remoteness are calculated, see the Technical notes.

More information

Defining injury hospitalisations and deaths: how injuries were counted

Technical notes: how the data were calculated

Data tables: download the full tables

Glossary