Forging a Path to Vision Zero in the US: A Critical Analysis of Road Safety in Australia

Despite similarities to the US in terms of transportation, land use, and culture, Australia kills 5.3 people per 100,000 population on the roads each year, as compared to the US rate of 12.4. Similar trends hold when accounting for distance driven and the number of registered cars. This research project seeks to understand what is behind the road safety disparities between these two countries. The results suggest that a number of inter-related factors seem to play a role in the better road safety outcomes of Australia as compared to the US. This includes Australia’s strategies related to seat belt usage and impaired driving as well as their efforts to help curb vehicle speeds and reduce exposure. Design-related differences include a much greater reliance on roundabouts and narrower street cross-sections as well as guidelines that encourage self-enforcing roads. Policy-related differences include stronger and more extensive enforcement programs, restrictive licensing programs, and higher driving costs. Combined with a more urban population and multimodal infrastructure, Australia tends to discourage driving mileage and exposure while encouraging safer modes of transportation such as transit, at least more so than in most of the US. Australia also enacted their version of Vision Zero – called the Safe System Approach – more than a decade before similar policies began cropping up in US cities. While it is difficult to attribute recent road safety successes to any specific policy, Australia continues to expand their lead on the US in terms of safety outcomes and is a road safety example worthy of consideration.

  • Record URL:
  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This document was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, University Transportation Centers Program.
  • Corporate Authors:

    University of Colorado, Denver

    Department of Civil Engineering
    1200 Larimer Street, P.O. Box 173364
    Denver, CO  United States  80217-3364

    Mountain-Plains Consortium

    North Dakota State University
    Fargo, ND  United States  58108

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Authors:
    • Marshall, Wesley E
  • Publication Date: 2020-6-15


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Figures; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 39p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01754222
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: MPC-20-420
  • Contract Numbers: MPC-556
  • Created Date: Oct 5 2020 2:37PM