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Overcoming Australian Traffic Engineering Challenges

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 25, 2013

– Ram Kumar Shrestha, M.Sc.


Keywords: Traffic Engineering, Traffic Engineering challenges, HDI, Public safety, DIMIA, Skilled labour migration, OECD, Ring road, Roundabout, Intersection, Road crashes, Australian economy.]

Ram Kumar ShresthaBackground

Australia is among the ten most developed countries with second position after Norway under the classification possessing a “very high human development” with HDI 0.929.[1]  Because of high population growth due to DIMIA’s policies to bring migrants and Australia’s road toll indication of falling behind the rest of the developed nations despite huge budget, existing major traffic engineering related problems need to be improved as soon as possible. Australia, therefore, has not only the challenges in maintaining the standard of development activities, but also in sustaining public safety, especially in traffic engineering which needs a concrete plan and implementation strategies.

High Population Growth

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMIA) allocates around 130,000 to 140,000 migration places each year – the highest level in twenty years – with a firm focus on bringing in migrants with the relevant skills to complement Australia’s labour market needs and skill shortages. In 2005-06, 97 000 places have been allocated for skilled migration.In this endeavour to make a productive economy possible the skilled labour migration strategy is a must for a country with less densely populated countries. Without this strategy the high standard of living of the country as a whole may not be possible. [2]  Australia’s strategy to bring migrants will, undoubtedly, cause high population growth rate in the future. This must be considered in every major development plan in time to avoid problems in the future thus maintaining development indicators within standards.

TOTAL POPULATION: Actual and projected – Australia

 Graph: Total Population Actual and projected Australia

Source: Feature Article – Population Projections 1997 – 2051 (ABS)

Australia’s population grew throughout the period 1997-2051. The population increased from 18.5 million in 1997 to around 19.3 million in 2001 and is projected to be between 22.1 and 23.1 million by 2021. By the end of the projection period the population is projected to rise to around 23.5 million (Series III), 24.9 million (Series II) or 26.4 million (Series I). This represents a growth of 27%, 35% and 42% respectively between 1997 and 2051. [3] Considering the existing density of the population, the projection may not be a big problem. However; consideration of the population increase for, traffic engineering could become one of the burning issues in the future.

Transport Priority versus Accident Scenario:

On 1 January 2013, Australia’s $61 billion transport industry will enter a new era. The 2012-13 Budget allocates a further $38 million over three years to finalise the implementation and to bed-down long sought after microeconomic reform.  This is in addition to the $33.6 million previously provided. [4] This clearly shows that even after being in the most developed country list, the transportation industry is within the Australia government’s priority list. This is because being a new country with an increasing population that is opening new areas for housing and industry in an endeavour to decentralize population in is occurring.

Australia’s road toll figures show Australia falling behind the rest of the developed nations. In 2005, Australia ranked 7th best out of 15 nations (OECD nations) for road deaths per 100 million vehicle kilometres travelled (0.8 deaths). That might sound good, but in 2004 Australia ranked 4th and in 2003 it was 3rd.[5] This is happening after the new state (and federal) government’s road safety agenda. Road crashes still cause some 1,400 deaths and 32,500 serious injuries each year. The social impacts are devastating – and the annual cost to the Australian economy is estimated to be $27 billion.[6] Despite its low population density of and being newly developed country this fact is really surprising and without a distinct  concrete plan Australia, undoubtedly, will have worse results in the future due to more density of population and heavy traffic.

The table given below elucidates that even among most developed nine countries (the required data not available for Liechtenstein) Australia’s situation in three cases is under average and only in one case above average. Under the same circumstances the increased population and traffic could cause more traffic accidents. Without improving the existing and adding new safety measures in time, the result could, undoubtedly, be concerning in the future.



Road Accident

Road fatalities per

Population density/ sq km [10]
HDI [7] Rank [8] Rate (Rank) 100,000 inhabitants per year (Rank) 100,000 motor vehicles (Rank) 1 billion vehicle-kilometre (Rank)



4.1 (2)

2.90 (1)

7.00 (1)

5.1 (2)





5.7 (4)

4.50 (4)

7.20 (2)

7.2 (5)







6.1 (5)

4.07 (2)

7.44 (3)

4.9 (1)





7.8 (7)

9.20 (8)

13.00 (6)

8.2 (7)


New Zealand



10.3 (8)

8.60 (7)

11.00 (5)

9.1 (9)





13.9 (9)

12.30 (9)

15.00 (7)

8.5 (8)





4.0 (1)

4.10 (3)

7.00 (1)

7.7 (6)





6.8 (6)

5.71 (6)

8.00 (4)

5.8 (3)





5.2 (3)

5.40 (5)

8.00 (4)

6.1 (4)


 Exiting from Existing:

Any accident causes not only the property and life loss but also creates psychological pressure and due to juggling of time of involved people in the accident. This could result in lots of programs being postponed or cancelled causing lots of financial loss to society and individuals involved. Density of population also affects accident rate and is directly proportion within specific conditions and circumstance. So accident rate should be the lowest in Australia from this point of view, but it is not.

Roundabouts are tremendously dominated by intersections in Australia, however; around 35% of accidents happen at intersections. Systematic and appropriate preventive measures, therefore, must be introduced in intersections to minimize accident rate. Especially at peak hour traffic density occurs leading to more accidents. Some more appropriate and scientific alternatives, hence, must be introduced as soon as possible considering the existing situation and future population projections.

The table illustrates that the population in most of the cities will be almost double by 2051. The existing problem situation clearly indicates the terrible condition of the problem by that time unless improved traffic options are introduced.



2051 Series A

2051 Series B





4 399.7

7 262.8

6 733.8


3 892.4

7 492.6

6 515.9


1 945.6

4 580.6

3 764.4


1 172.1

1 772.8

1 612.7


1 602.6

3 856.7

3 181.3














13 687.6

26 265.8

22 807.4

Source: ABS Population Projections, Australia, 2006 to 2101 (cat. no. 3222.0) and ABS Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0)

Steps to be stepped:
1. Introducing Ring road:

Every day, obviously, it can be observed that the number of cars increases dramatically with the increase of population. Large amounts of traffic can be decreased in the city centre by a ring road introduction. In addition, population density and rush-hour traffic will decrease and therefore population and traffic control will become easier. Moreover, city centre will not become a polluted area and to great extent pollution issues will be reduced. This helps not only to save time but also to save fuel and energy and also to curtail traffic problems.

2. Introducing roundabout in complicated intersections:

In Australia the challenge at intersections especially in peak hour is concerning.

Studies done in the US, Europe and Australia have found that roundabouts have better safety performance over other types of intersections. Surveys have also shown that the damage incurred in roundabout crashes was significantly reduced. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published A Study of Crash Reductions Following Installation of Roundabouts in the United States, in May 2000, illustrating the reductions of crashes after the introduction of a roundabout.[12]

The increased safety levels in roundabouts can be attributed to:[12]

  • Yield-at-entry operation
  • Fewer conflict points. Standard four-way intersections have 32 conflict points versus 8 in a roundabout
  • Central and splitter islands reduce the number of conflict points

It has been shown that roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75 per cent at intersections where stop signs or signals were previously used for traffic control, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Studies by the IIHS and Federal Highway Administration have shown that roundabouts typically achieve: [13]

  • 37% reduction in overall collisions
  • 75% reduction in injury collisions
  • 90% reduction in fatality collisions
  • 40% per cent reduction in pedestrian collisions

Graph showing roundabout safety benefits

3. Introducing more flyovers and underpasses:

Flyovers and underpasses are two important constructions that allow for more efficient and faster transport. They become a necessity when roads are congested because of heavy traffic and people of one locality find it difficult to move to another having to take diversions instead of getting a straight road that would save a lot of time and effort.

Sometimes, a flyover is made only for pedestrians to allow for their safe passage over a busy main road. Flyovers or overpasses are engineering marvels and at places, they make the criss-cross of roads over a main road that not only looks attractive, but allows for faster and more efficient transport of people and vehicles. [14] Analysing the existing traffic situation and population increase rate introducing flyovers and underpasses could be one of the very important steps to overcome possible traffic problem in the future.

4. Improving traffic light sequencing:

At many intersections separate traffic lights for vehicles are not managed and vehicles get to turn at the same time while pedestrians need to cross the road.  That’s why vehicles are always trying to push forward to exit point to take turn at the time of green light for pedestrians. At the time of heavy pedestrian flow the traffic light could turn into red and vehicles neither can come back nor go forward, however; they have to move forward and create a serious traffic hazard. This system, most of the time, gives unnecessary pressure to drivers and obviously chaos can be noticed in intersections at the time of green light for pedestrian.

Despite these technical issues and the population decentralizing strategy a new perspective is required. The issues raised here including population density directly proportional to accidents must be considered. With delaying sorting out these issues will undoubtedly make the project cost costlier if a delay in implementation occurs.

Future Challenges makes it clear that the decisions that are taken will be crucial to the economic prospects and living standards for future generations. The Australian government appears sensitive to the long-term challenges it faces including maintaining living standards. , This must also include raising the traffic engineering standards as not doing this will impact on the development standard and public safety. This very important issue must not be put on the back burner.


  1. Developed Country:
  2. Shrestha, R. K.: Australia: Immigrant professionals with non-skilled job to be prioritized:
  3. Feature Article – Population Projections 1997 – 2051:
  4. Transport Reform: Completing Federation’s  Unfinished Business:
  5. Road Toll Statistics – Australia Getting Worse:
  6. National Road Safety Strategy 2011 – 2020:
  7. Top 10 Highly Developed Countries:
  8. Road Traffic Accidents Death Rate per 100,000
  9. List of Countries by Traffic-related Death Rate:
  10. Countries of the World:
  12. Safety:
  13. Roundabout Benefits:
  14. Olivia: Difference Between Flyover and Underpass:

Civil Engineering, Geelong, Australia

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