Deaths of children in NSW in 2015: Transport fatalities

In 2015, 504 children aged from birth to 17 years died in NSW. Thirty-three of the children died in 31 transport incidents, a mortality rate of 1.94 per 100,000 children. This includes 29 deaths that occurred on road-related areas, and four deaths on off-road areas.

Transport fatalities were the leading injury-related cause of death for children aged five to 14, and the second leading cause for children under five and young people aged  15-17. Half (17) of the child fatalities were teenagers, and just over half (19) of the 33 children who died were male.

The majority (28) of the 33 fatalities were children travelling in or on a vehicle: 16 children were passengers and 12 were in control of a vehicle. Five children were pedestrians who died after being struck by a vehicle.

Police determined 28 drivers or riders to be at fault in relation to the fatal incidents, 13 of whom died in the incident. Nineteen drivers/riders considered to be at fault were inexperienced; most of whom (11) were under 18 years of age and provisional licence holders.

Trends in transport deaths of children

The mortality rate for children in transport fatalities has declined by almost half between 2001 (4.43) and 2015
(1.94). The decline has been significantly more for males than for females.

The largest group of transport-related deaths was amongst passengers. However these deaths have declined consistently since 2001. Transport-related deaths of children in pedestrian incidents declined from 2001 to 2008, but the rate has remained about the same since 2008.

Figure 1: Deaths due to transport fatalities in NSW: children under 18 years by user type, 2001-2015

Total deaths have been steadily declining from 2001-2014. There was a significant spike in 2006, which was driveen mainly by a spike in passenger deaths. There has been an increase in total deaths form 2014-2015. Passenger deaths are the largest contributor. These have been following the same decline as the total deaths. Driver deaths has been steady. Pedestrian deaths has declined from 2001-2015.

Identified risk factors: transport fatalities

There are numerous factors that may contribute to motor vehicle crashes and road trauma relating to driver behaviour, vehicle factors and environmental conditions. The main factors identified in 2015, and consistent with previous years, included:

  • speeding
  • driving while drug and/or alcohol affected
  • fatigue
  • lack of a restraint or restraint misuse
  • the inexperience of novice drivers, and
  • older vehicles lacking contemporary safety technologies.

These factors were often identified together as contributing to fatal incidents.

Quad bike and side-by-side fatalities: 2006-2015

In 2015, two children died in quad bike incidents. Over the 10 years from 2006 to 2015, 10 children died in quad bike or side-by-side vehicle incidents in NSW.

The 10 children who died were aged between seven and 16 years, with the majority (7) aged less than 12 years. The causes of death were predominantly crush injuries or major head trauma. In eight of the 10 incidents the crash occurred while off-road driving on private property.

NSW legislation governing the use of quad bikes and side-by-side vehicles (SSV) depends on whether they are being driven on-road, in recreational vehicle areas, or on private property.

There is no legislative prohibition in NSW that applies to the use of quad bikes on private properties, such as farms, by children under 16 years of age. A child over 8 years of age can ride an appropriately registered motor vehicle, including a quad bike or side-by-side vehicle, in a recreation vehicle area. It is broadly accepted that children under the age of 16 years should not ride adult-size quad bikes or SSVs. Manufacturer warning labels and information issued with adult-size quad bikes routinely state that the vehicles should not be operated unless the rider is at least 16 years old with a valid driver’s licence.

Observations and recommendations

Unsafe driver behaviours remain the key contributing factors. Unsafe driver behaviours were rarely seen in isolation; most incidents had multiple risk factors present.

Over half of at-fault drivers were novice drivers. NSW has a Graduated Licensing Scheme. A national decrease in deaths among the 15 to 24 year age group is largely attributed to the introduction of Graduated Licensing Scheme models.¹ From 2016, NSW will introduce changes to the Scheme; the Centre for Road Safety reports that these changes will ‘better prepare drivers for real-world road hazards and reduce deaths on the road’.²

The majority of deaths involved older, less safe vehicles. Many of the children who died in transport-related incidents were travelling in older vehicles that do not feature contemporary safety technologies. Of particular concern is that all six teenage drivers who died were driving an older, less safe vehicle.

Cultural and regulatory change is needed to restrict the use of quad bikes and SSVs. Adult quad bikes and SSVs are inherently dangerous for children and should not be operated by a child under 16 years. Recent Coronial inquests in NSW, Queensland and Victoria have highlighted the need for education, cultural change and regulation to prevent child death and injury.

In this context, the CDRT has recommended that:

The NSW Attorney General:

Refer to the NSW Law Reform Commission for review, the introduction of legislation to prohibit any child under 16 years from using an adult sized quad bike or side-by-side vehicle on private property or in recreational vehicle areas.


  1. Transport for NSW, Centre for Road Safety, Younger drivers, accessed from on 29 July 2016.
  2. Transport for NSW, Centre for Road Safety, Licence conditions, accessed from on 29 July 2016.

Since 1996, the CDRT has been responsible for reviewing and reporting to the NSW Parliament on all deaths of children aged less than 18 years in NSW. The CDRT maintains a register of child deaths in NSW. The Team consists of experts in child health, child protection and related areas, and representatives of key government agencies. The Convenor of the Team is the NSW Ombudsman, and Ombudsman staff provide support and assistance to the Team.

This page is a summary of key information contained in the NSW Child Death Review Team (CDRT) Child Death Review Report 2015.

Contact us for more information

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© State of New South Wales, November 2016
This publication is released under a Creative Commons license CC BY 4.0.

Publication metadata

ISBN 978-1-925569-08-7
Category Fact sheets
Publication Date 6 December 2016