Clearly, the question of which Australian State has the worst drivers is one that’s open to some debate (although the raw figures of who has the most crashes are irrefutable), but of some things there is no doubt.
Firstly, Victoria is the worst State to drive in, because everyone behaves as if they’re terrified of exceeding the speed limit by even the tiniest margin, and secondly, all Australians are pretty awful.
“The limitless Germans are possibly the world’s best drivers, second only to the Italians, who make getting to work and back by car look like their greatest passion.”
Sure, there are worse places to drive than our home country – China, India and Egypt would be near the top of the Most Terrifying list – but there are a large number that are better. Our biggest failing is one you no doubt see every day; a complete inability to keep left unless overtaking, causing constant traffic bunching and wild frustration.
When it comes to driving with intelligence and courtesy, the Poms have us covered, in terms of driving efficiently and at great speed, the limitless Germans are possibly the world’s best drivers, second only to the Italians, who make getting to work and back by car look like their greatest passion.
What you’ll almost never see in those countries, or much of Europe, is someone sitting in the fast lane, deciding the speed limit and dawdling along, reading their phones. Perhaps because other motorists, or the police, would drag them off the road if they did.
In Australia, some States and Territories are more enjoyable than others to drive in, for various reasons, as we shall see.
What are the facts?
When it comes to who makes the most insurance claims for road accidents, the results are hardly a surprise, as they closely follow population density, as shown in a study conducted by Canstar.com.au, which found that 32.8 per cent of all claims were made in NSW, followed by Victoria (30.06) and Queensland (18.83), with the Northern Territory accounting for just 0.18 per cent of them.
Even more interesting are the figures for accidents per 1000 vehicles, which show that South Australians are, statistically, the most crash-prone drivers, with eight claims per 1000 registered vehicles.
Interestingly, Victoria just pips NSW into third place (both just below eight claims per 1000), in these statistics, with Queensland (six per 100,000) then Western Australia and, Tasmania, the NT and finally the ACT.
“Once again, Canberra is the safest place to drive, with just 3.8 fatalities per 100,000 people recorded in that year.”
Our nation’s capital stands out as the safest place to drive, with just 0.37 claims per 1000 registered vehicles; a huge difference from South Australia’s figure, possibly due to the fact that there are so few cars in Canberra, but also to the fact that it’s very hard to drive long, tiring distances in the ACT without ending up in NSW.
While the NT rates low in terms of the number of claims, it is the most dangerous place to drive. ABS stats show the number of deaths from road-traffic crashes (which includes pedestrians) per 100,000 head of population was 5.1 in 2015 (down from 30.4 in 1970, which is remarkable) but the rate in the NT is almost four times higher at 20.0.
NSW does better than average at 4.6, with Victoria marginally better at 4.2, while Queensland (5.1), South Australia (6.0), Western Australia (6.2) and Tasmania (6.6) don’t do quite as well, on average.
Once again, Canberra is the safest place to drive, with just 3.8 fatalities per 100,000 people recorded in that year.
And what about the perception?
It seems Australians largely agree that NSW has the worst drivers in the country, with 36 per cent of those surveyed in 2015 by car insurer Budget Direct nominating our oldest State as the capital of bad driving.
Surprisingly, no less than 54 per cent of NSW drivers agreed with that assessment in the same poll. Queensland came second in the voting, with 21 per cent, and Victoria just behind on 20 per cent.
The insurer surveyed 1000 people and found that residents of each state tend to think they live in the place with the worst drivers, but everyone listed NSW as home of the second worst (except NSW, which voted its own drivers the worst).
“Everyone thinks their state has the worst drivers, no doubt because that’s where we do most of our driving,” says Budget Direct spokeswoman Kimberley Moody.
“It’s interesting that all put NSW drivers as the next worst; whether that’s a reality or not the locals seem to agree.”
State by State – How does yours rate?
Based on entirely subjective evidence collected over many thousands of kilometres driven in each State and Territory (but mostly in NSW and the ACT).
The State of fear, and loathing. No one seems to enjoy driving much in Victoria, and in Melbourne in particular. The State’s incredibly harsh enforcement approach means that everyone on the road seems to be staring at their speedometers, terrified to go even 1km/h over the limit.
The result is that everyone is doing exactly the speed limit, all the time, which means the roads are as clogged as a pubescent teenager’s pores. There’s no point trying to use an overtaking lane, because everyone in that lane is doing the same speed, too. And you can probably be shot by the police for overtaking anyway.
All this clock-watching leads to frustration and rear-end accidents. And fear. And loathing.
People in NSW, and Sydney in particular, which is where most of them live, seem to be in an awful hurry.
This can at least make the place invigorating to drive, because the traffic is always dicing with itself, as some people try to show others how important they are by getting to work faster than anyone else.
“Everyone in Sydney thinks they’re the fastest, so they all want to be in the right lane, all the time.”
Everyone in Sydney thinks they’re the fastest, so they all want to be in the right lane, all the time, and they hate being overtaken (or worse still, undertaken, if they won’t get out of the way).
People in country areas of NSW drive with a bit of vigour as well, due to the slightly more lax approach of the police force, although that goes out the window on Double Demerit holidays.
The reason NSW gets a bad rap in the above survey, however, is almost certainly the fact that its residents do tend to drive with an inexplicable amount of aggression, and hate letting each other in.
A deeply law abiding and conservative bunch of road users, people in WA are the kind of drivers who cover the brake pedal as they approach a green traffic light, just to be sure they can absolutely slam the stoppers if it should turn yellow.
Sydneysiders think amber means go faster, of course, and if they visit Perth they tend to run into serious trouble as a result.
WA motorists are somewhat cowed into obeying the law by the fact that the local cops are allowed to just randomly drop mobile speed cameras wherever they like. Considering some of the vast distances that people outside of Perth have to travel to get places, and how little traffic there is, it seems incredible (even to some WA police, apparently) that the State limit is only 110km/h.
For many interesting years, the Northern Territory had no speed limits at all, once you got outside of ‘built up’ areas like Darwin. This meant you would see some people driving very quickly indeed, and most people sitting on around 140-150km/h, because this seems to be a good speed when you can see forever unfolding in front of you, and there’s almost no traffic to speak of.
“Admittedly, it used to be a bit like the wild west. Now everyone just looks frustrated, bored and bloody hot.”
The idea was that, because NT residents drive so far, it might be safer for them to get there a bit quicker rather than fall asleep at the wheel. Radical.
It didn’t work out, of course, and recent trials of limit-free sections of road have also come to an end thanks to the change of government policy.
Admittedly, it used to be a bit like the wild west. Now everyone just looks frustrated, bored and bloody hot, even though, with a top limit of 130km/h, they do still get to drive faster than anyone else.
Yes, they’re very slow drivers in our far south, but that’s because they’re never in a hurry, or stressed by traffic. Ever.
They’re also, in the main, among the most polite and courteous drivers in the country; always willing to pull over and wave you past if you’re in the process of enjoying the State’s beautiful roads, which are not only empty but genuinely blessed with brilliant corners.
Possibly the best place to drive in Australia, except for the number of animals on the roads, which is astronomical.
Well, the figures (above) don’t lie, and while South Australians don’t seem to get a bad rating from the rest of the country, that’s because most people haven’t been there.
Picture a person driving slowly in front of you, daydreaming merrily about vineyards and AFL, and wearing a bowling hat and that’s pretty much South Australian drivers for you.
“They just don’t seem to be too bothered about anything.”
Slow yet self occupied, they just don’t seem to be too bothered about anything. Perhaps it’s the pace of South Australian life that has slowed them down.
Well here’s the thing, it’s a big place, so it’s hard to tar them all with the same brush, but certainly the ones who drive between the Gold Coast, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast are all deeply in love with the right-hand lane on highways. Indeed, it’s as if they think there are crocodiles in the left one, they’re that afraid of using it.
Brisbane traffic seems ponderously slow for such a small city and the further north you go, the bigger the farmer’s hats get, and the slower they drive.
If you’ve ever driven in a country town, with it’s “she’ll be right, we’ll get there when we’re good and bloody ready” approach, you’ll find Queensland familiar.
It’s really not surprising that there are so few accidents in Canberra, because everyone is too busy going slowly around in circles and occasionally pulling up at traffic lights to remark, beatifically, to one another how wonderfully absent of traffic their pretty little city is.
“Driving in Canberra is probably very relaxing, if you live there and you’ve never driven anywhere else.”
Canberrans will tell you they have traffic, and peak hours, but they really don’t. Some roads in the ACT are three lanes wide, and even thousands of years from now, no one will be able to work out why, because they’re never all used at once. Imagine someone building the Sydney Harbour Bridge to be 86 lanes wide, 80 odd years ago, and you’ll get the idea.
You would think, considering it has around eight million roundabouts, that Canberrans would be good at using them, but it often seems like they’re still trying to work out what the rules are.
Driving in Canberra is probably very relaxing, if you live there and you’ve never driven anywhere else, but for visitors it’s a bit like trying to drive through fig jam.
This article originally appeared on CarsGuide.