Road Safety Strategy
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Vehicles on our roads

Vehicle safety refers to the level of safety a vehicle provides for occupants and other road users in the event of a crash as well as its ability through technology, to avoid or minimise the effects of a crash.

Newer vehicles are generally safer because a vehicle’s age reflects the incremental improvements in safety due to advancements in technology, design and mandatory safety standards over time. The level of safety a vehicle provides is commonly reflected through a star rating, provided by an assessment program such as the Australasian New Car Assessment Program or the Used Car Safety Ratings. Research indicates safer vehicle technology can be promoted by active policies to promote uptake by government and private-sector fleets.

Recent highly effective improvements that have been mandated in new vehicles include electronic stability control (ESC) and motorcycle antilock braking system (ABS). Australian research shows that ESC reduces the risk of single car crashes by 25% and single 4WD crashes by 51%.

South Australia has the second-oldest vehicle fleet in Australia. People living in regional and remote areas and young and older drivers often drive older vehicles, which may be due to their lower cost and availability.

Average age of vehicles
South Australia11.8
Regional South Australia13
This data includes light vehicles only, excludes heavy vehicles and motorcycles.

Excluding those with a conditional registration*, the average age of light vehicles registered to people aged 70+ in metropolitan Adelaide is 12.7 years. In regional and remote South Australia, the average age of light vehicles is 13.9 years.

Excluding those with a conditional registration,16 the average age of light vehicles registered to 6–24-year-olds in metropolitan Adelaide is 13.0 years. In regional and remote South Australia, the average age of light vehicles is 13.7 years. It should be noted that around half of the licensed drivers in the 16–24-year age group do not have a vehicle registered to them.

Nationally, the age of the heavy vehicle fleet varies depending on the type of heavy vehicle. Light rigid trucks have an average age of 11.0 years, heavy rigid trucks have an average age of about 15.6 years and articulated trucks have an average age of 11.8 years.

Motorcycles in South Australia have an average age of around 12.1 years, again, higher than the national average age of 10.8 years.

Older vehicles are more likely to be involved in a serious crash. 36% of light vehicles involved in crashes resulting in lives lost or serious injuries in South Australia were 15 or more years old. 28% of all light vehicles are more than 15 years old.

New vehicles sold or leased by business will eventually be purchased by the broader community. In 2019, approximately 77% of heavy vehicles and 42% of light vehicles first entered the South Australian market through business fleets. It is expected that following a relatively short lease period of 2-5 years, these vehicles will be sold to the general public.

* Conditional registration includes: unregistered vehicle permits; seasonal registrations; emergency response vehicles; special purpose vehicles; restricted primary producer’s vehicles; registered miscellaneous vehicles; historic, left-hand drive and street rod vehicles; and light vehicle permits.

Heavy vehicles and interaction with other transport modes

The mass and rigidity of heavy vehicles can contribute to the severity of crashes, especially in collisions with other vehicles. Other road users may not be aware of the distance that heavy vehicles need to slow down, stop or change lanes, or how to safely overtake heavy vehicles, especially those that are larger such as restricted access vehicles or over dimensional loads.

76% of heavy vehicle crashes where lives were lost involved either a light vehicle, pedestrian, motorcyclist or cyclist. In 80% of these crashes, the road user deemed at fault was not the heavy vehicle driver. Crashes between pedestrians, cyclists and heavy vehicles even at very low speeds can result in serious injuries and loss of life.

The most prominent crash type (38%) in heavy vehicle crashes are head on crashes and 95% of the time the other vehicle is going straight ahead, but not overtaking. The next most prominent crash type is a right angle or right turn crash (25%).

Two-thirds of lives-lost crashes and 44% of serious-injury crashes involving a heavy vehicle occurred in regional and remote South Australia. 82% of those heavy vehicle crashes on regional and remote roads were speed limited to 100 or 110 km/h.

Midblock crashes (crashes not at an intersection) accounted for 76% of crashes resulting in lives lost or serious injury on regional and remote roads involving at least one heavy vehicle.