This report presents estimates of trends in the number and rate of persons seriously injured in Australia due to road vehicle traffic crashes. Serious injury is defined as cases where a person was admitted to hospital for an injury and was discharged alive. Cases involving types of injury that are life-threatening are the main focus. Deaths are not included.

Trends in serious injury

Over the 10-year period from 2001 to 2010, age-standardised rates for people seriously injured due to a road vehicle traffic crash fluctuated but increased overall, from 141.6 to 146.4 per 100,000 population, an average annual increase of 0.9%.

All jurisdictions except for Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania showed increases in age-standardised rates of serious injury due to road vehicle traffic crashes over the 10-year period. Victoria was the only jurisdiction to record a statistically significant decrease.

Trends in life-threatening injury

Over one-quarter (26%) of those seriously injured due to road vehicle traffic crashes over the 10-year period from 2001 to 2010 sustained life-threatening injuries.

The highest rates were for people aged 15-24 years, for both males and females. The largest increase over the 10-year period was for males aged 45-64 years.

Rates of life-threatening cases involving motorcycle riders and pedal cycle riders rose significantly over this period, with average annual increases of 5.2% and 7.5% respectively. Rates of cases involving passengers of motor vehicles and pedestrians fell, with average annual decreases of 1.2% and 1.0% respectively.

For males injured as motorcycle riders, rates in all age groups, except those aged 0-4 years and 15-24 years, increased over the 10-year period. The largest average annual increases in rates were recorded in the age groups 45-64 years and 65 years and over, with average annual increases of 13.2% and 14% respectively. For females injured as motorcyclists, increases occurred for those aged 14-24 years, 25-44 years and 45-64 years.

Injuries per registered motorcycle did not change much from 2001 to 2010, suggesting that the rise in population-based rates is largely due to growth in the number of motorcycles in use.

Rates also rose for males and females injured as pedal cycle riders, in age groups 25-44 years and 45-64 years, as well as for males aged 65 years and over. The largest average annual increase in rates for males and females was recorded for those aged 45-64 years, with average annual increases of 14.1% for males and 15.7% for females.

The overall rise for males aged 45-64 years is accounted for by the rise in injuries sustained as a motorcyclist or pedal cyclist. In 2001, 31% of all high-threat-to-life road injuries sustained by males aged 45-64 years occurred while they were riding motorcycles or pedal cycles. This proportion rose to over 58% in 2010.

Increases in life-threatening road injury were greater for people living in remote areas (average annual increase of 3.7%) than for those living in Major cities and Outer regional areas.