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Mystery of state’s soaring road toll despite pandemic restrictions

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Queensland is the only state to have recorded an increase in traffic fatalities during the pandemic.

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Ahead of a budget estimates committee hearing tomorrow, Transport Minister Mark Bailey has revealed the Queensland road toll increased despite there being fewer vehicles on the road.

Over the decade to last year, the annual road toll fell 36 per cent, with 2019 the lowest year on record with 219 deaths.

“However, as at 6 December 2020 we have lost 254 lives, 45 (or 21.5 per cent) more than this time last year and 31 (or 13.7 per cent) greater than the previous five-year average,” Bailey said in answer to a question on notice.

“This increased number of lives lost this year is concerning, particularly as at times there has been fewer vehicles on our roads due to the restrictions in place for COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, during COVID-19 Queensland was the only state to have an increase in the number of fatal crashes.”

Bailey said road safety remained “a critical issue in Queensland and one demanding continued attention and action”. The cause of the soaring road toll will be examined further.

Data shows that while public transport use also declined this year, active transport, such as cycling, increased.

“It is possible that changes in mobility patterns such as increased motorbike and bicycle riding as well as increases in risky road use behaviour have impacted on the number and profile of road crash fatalities and injuries in Queensland,” Bailey said.

“In particular, we have seen speed and failure to wear a seatbelt as contributing factors to this increased road trauma.”

Traffic volumes are returning to normal, as restrictions ease, and police previously on border patrols are back on normal duties, including the Christmas road safety campaign.

Researchers from Queensland University of Technology last year reported that, based on previous trends, road crashes over Christmas were 21 per cent more likely to result in death or serious injury than crashes at other times of the year.

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