Inside our hidden road toll
For every person who dies on our roads, another 30 are hospitalised.
Take a breath and blink, now open your eyes to find the world you know is gone; forever. You have just joined the ranks of Australia’s hidden road toll victims – those lucky enough to live through a road crash but unlucky enough to survive with ongoing trauma.
For every fatality on Australian roads, another 30 people are hospitalised. Figures from 2017 show that for the 1227 people who died about 36,000 were seriously hurt, many with life-changing injuries, costing the community billions of dollars a year.
As Australian authorities get better at saving lives on the nation’s roads, the hidden toll of road trauma survivors increases. Elvira Lazar, RACV’s manager of safety and education, says the ratio of injuries to fatalities has doubled over the past decade.
“In 2002, for every person that lost their life, a further 15 were injured,” she says. “Ten years later in 2012, for every person that lost their life, a further 20 were injured.
“The ratio is not improving and in 2017 this climbed to a staggering 30 people being injured for every person that lost their life.”
Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission chief executive officer, Joe Calafiore, says road trauma in Victoria alone cost $1.4 billion in 2017-18.
“Tragically, hundreds of people lose their life on Victoria’s roads and thousands are seriously injured every year; some of those injuries can last a lifetime,” he says. “Receiving a life-long injury like an acquired brain injury or paraplegia can have devastating effects, not just on those injured, but the communities around them.”
It takes milliseconds for a road crash to change your life, as Melbourne mum Tarli Bogtstra knows too well.
It’s been more than a decade since a crash left Tarli in hospital for months with an acquired brain injury and other injuries requiring years of rehabilitation where she had to re-learn such basics as walking. Tarli had to give up her cherished job as a genetic counsellor at a prominent Melbourne hospital because of memory loss which dogs her to this day.