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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, July 2013  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/03/2014   
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Car Nation

NUMBER OF PASSENGER VEHICLES PER 1,000 PEOPLE(a)
Column graph of Number of passenger vehicles per 1,000 people, 1955 and 2013
(a) 1955 Motor Vehicle Census data are at 31 December, Population data are at 30 June 1954. 2013 Motor Vehicle Census data are at 31 January and Estimated Resident Population data for 2013 are at 31 December 2012 and re-based on 2011 Census of Population and Housing (Australian Demographic Statistics 3101.0 Dec 2012).
Source: ABS 2013 Motor Vehicle Census, Australia, 2013

Related terms
Cars, motor vehicle, car dependent, car use, transport, buying a car, travel to work, public transport, passenger, commute, Census data



INTRODUCTION

The increased availability and affordability of cars in Australia inspires Australians to travel further than was possible before: taking longer trips, attending cultural outings, gaining employment further afield. This has turned cars into the ultimate in personal mobility, flexibility and convenience. (Endnote 1)

Modern marketing explores the idea that people have an emotional connection with their cars. (Endnote 2) It may be the mid-life crisis sports car, the luxury SUV for the urban jungle soccer mum, or the refined sedan for the successful business person. The Australian love affair with cars, and the increase in car ownership, has led to newer cities and new parts of Australia’s older cities being designed with high levels of vehicle use in mind. (Endnote 1)

This article looks at passenger vehicle ownership and use, especially compared with public transport use, and the social and environmental impacts of passenger vehicle use and ownership.

PASSENGER VEHICLE OWNERSHIP AND USE

Following World War II, town planning focused on a suburban, low-density design, (Endnote 3) and the subsequent improvement in road systems contributed to Australia becoming a nation reliant on cars. While the growth in vehicle registrations stalled during the Great Depression and World War ll, the number of passenger vehicle owners has continued to grow since the 1950's. (Endnote 1)

How many passenger vehicles are there in Australia?

Over the 58 years from 1955 to 2013 the number of passenger vehicles registered in Australia increased from 1.4 million to 13.0 million, an average annual growth of 4%. In 2013, passenger vehicles accounted for over three quarters (76%) of all registered vehicles.

In 1955, there were 153 passenger vehicles per 1,000 people in Australia. By 2013, this rate had increased to 568 per 1,000 people.

NUMBER OF PASSENGER VEHICLES PER 1,000 PEOPLE(a)
Column graph of Number of passenger vehicles per 1,000 people, 1955 and 2013
(a) 1955 Motor Vehicle Census data are at 31 December, Population data are at 30 June 1954. 2013 Motor Vehicle Census data are at 31 January and Estimated Resident Population data for 2013 are at 31 December 2012 and re-based on 2011 Census of Population and Housing (Australian Demographic Statistics 3101.0 Dec 2012).
Source: ABS 2013 Motor Vehicle Census, Australia, 2013

Passenger vehicle use

In 2012, approximately 7 in 10 people (71%) aged 18 years and over travelled to work or full time study primarily by passenger vehicle, similar to 2009 (72%). This could have been either as a passenger or a driver. Only 16% of Australians used public transport, while 4% walked and 2% cycled.

MAIN FORM OF TRANSPORT USED TO GET TO WORK OR FULL-TIME STUDY, 2009 AND 2012
Column graph of Main form of transport used to get to work or full-time study, 2009 and 2012
Source: ABS Waste Management, Transport and Motor Vehicle Usage Use Survey

The majority (88%) of Australians also used a passenger vehicle to get to places other than work in 2012, such as to go shopping or visiting family and friends.

Who is in the drivers seat?

In 2012, people aged 55-64 years were the most likely to drive to work or full-time study (78%), while young people (aged 18-24 years) were the least likely age group (63%). Young people were the most likely to take public transport (28%) to work or study, compared with older age groups.

Differences in passenger vehicle use were also seen between men and women. Women were more likely to use a passenger vehicle to get to work or study compared with men (74% compared with 69% respectively). They were also more likely to take public transport (19% compared with 13%). However, men were more likely than women to drive other types of vehicles such as a ute, panel van, truck or motorbike to work or study (11% for men compared with 1% for women).

As women got older their use of a passenger vehicle to get to work or study increased, and their public transport use decreased. Conversely, men's use of a passenger vehicle decreased in older age groups, and their public transport use increased.

PASSENGER VEHICLE AND PUBLIC TRANSPORT USE TO GET WORK OR FULL-TIME STUDY BY SEX AND AGE, 2012
Men
Line graph of Passenger vehicle and public transport use to get to work or full-time study by age for men, 2012

Women
Line graph of Passenger vehicle and public transport use to get to work or full-time study by age for women, 2012

Source: ABS Waste Management, Transport and Motor Vehicle Usage Use Survey

Most people (68%) that travelled to work or full-time study by passenger vehicle drove themselves and three quarters (77%) of these did not take a passenger with them. If there was a passenger, it was more likely to be a woman (55%).

The financial cost

Buying a vehicle is one of the large purchases most people make. Of the 1.7 million households who purchased one or more motor vehicles between March 2011 and March 2012, over half (58%) considered the purchase cost as a key factor, followed by fuel economy/running costs (46%). Non-financial factors such as size and type of motor vehicle (41% and 36% respectively) were the next most important considerations.


FACTORS CONSIDERED(a) WHEN BUYING A MOTOR VEHICLE, MARCH 2011 - MARCH 2012

Dot graph of Factors considered when buying a motor vehicle, March 2011 - March 2012
(a) More than one factor may be considered when buying a motor vehicle.
Source: ABS Environmental Issues: Waste Management, Transport and Motor Vehicle Usage Survey, Mar 2012


The financial cost of owning a passenger vehicle continues long after the initial purchase. In 2009-10, average weekly household expenditure on motor vehicle fuels, lubricants and additives was $51 per week, a real increase of $12 (at 2009-10 prices) since 2003-04. For more information see the AST article Household energy use and costs.

Most Australians held some equity in their private motor vehicles in 2009-10; however, there was a small proportion (3%) who owed more for their motor vehicle than it was worth. Across all Australian households, private vehicle net worth was $18,000 on average. For more information see the AST article Components of household wealth.

Alternate transportation and reasons for not using it

Not being able to access public transport is one of the main reasons for people to use passenger vehicles to get to work or study. In 2012, of adults who travelled by passenger vehicle to work or study, over a half (53%) stated that a lack of public transport services (at all or at the right or convenient time) was one of the main reasons for not taking public transport. Over a quarter (28%) preferred the convenience, comfort, or privacy a private vehicle provided.

SELECTED REASONS(a) FOR NOT USING PUBLIC TRANSPORT(b) TO WORK OR FULL-TIME STUDY, 2012
Dot graph of Selected reasons for not using public transport to work or full-time study, 2012
(a) A person may report more than one reason for not using public transport.
(b) For people who drove to work or study, as a driver or passenger.
Source: ABS Waste Management, Transport and Motor Vehicle Usage Use Survey

Cycling, an environmentally friendly alternative to a passenger vehicle or public transport, was not common among Australians. In 2012, only 2% of adults cycled to work or study as their main form of transport. Of the adults who did not cycle (as their main form of transport to work or study), half stated that this was because the distance was too far. In 2012, over a third (37%) of people’s average distance to work was less than 10km, while a further 24% had an average distance of 10km to less than 20km to work.

Let’s drive
In 2012, Australian passenger vehicles travelled 167,456 million kilometres, the equivalent of driving approximately 41 million times the distance from the most eastern point of Australia, Cape Byron in New South Wales, to the most western point, Steep Point in Western Australia.(Endnote 4)

WHO IS MISSING OUT?

Not all Australians are able to drive, have access to, or own a passenger vehicle. For these Australians, a city which is car dependent may restrict their access to services, employment, shops, social and other activities. Under the Australian Governments Liveable Cities program, a key goal is to improve accessibility and reduce dependence on private vehicles through improving transport options.(Endnote 5)

In 2010, nearly half (48%) of adults without access to a passenger vehicle felt they sometimes or often had difficulty getting to places. However, for people who had access to a passenger vehicle, 1 in 10 adults (10%) felt that they sometimes or often had difficulty getting to places.

Cars and culture

Australian adults without access to a passenger vehicle stated that a lack of transport was the second most common reason (20%), behind health reasons (53%), for not attending cultural venues or events, including botanic gardens, zoos, museums or public libraries in 2010. For those who had access to a passenger vehicle, only 3% identified a lack of transport as a barrier to attendance.

Disadvantaged households

In the ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing, households living in the most disadvantaged areas were more likely not to own a passenger vehicle compared with other households. In contrast, households in the most advantaged areas were more likely to have three or more cars per household.

PASSENGER VEHICLES PER HOUSEHOLD(a) BY RELATIVE ADVANTAGE AND DISADVANTAGE(b) , 2011
Column graph of Passenger vehicles per household by relative advantage and disadvantage, 2011
(a) Percentage of total households in each quintile.
(b) Relative advantage and disadvantage of area. See Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas.
Source: ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing

THE SOCIAL COSTS OF OWNING AND USING A PASSENGER VEHICLE

Despite the benefits which owning and using passenger vehicles can bring to Australians, such as the ability to gain employment further afield, to see family and friends, and engage in social and cultural activities, there are implications to wide-spread passenger vehicle use in Australia. It has the potential for social and environmental impacts such as road safety issues, environmental degradation, and social disorder.(Endnote 5)

Road transport accidents

The total number of deaths due to road transport accidents has decreased over time and now accounts for a relatively small proportion of deaths in Australia each year, approximately 0.9% of deaths in 2011. However, the personal and social consequences of passenger vehicle accidents and fatalities on individuals, families and communities can have wide and lasting effects. Injuries from accidents can be substantial, with rehabilitation continuing over a long time.

In 2011, 1,323 people died as a result of road traffic accidents in Australia. A further 18 people had a road traffic accident contribute to, but not directly cause, their death. Half (51%) of all people who died in road traffic accidents were occupants of a car (including mini buses and utility vehicles), as opposed to other forms of road transport.

The majority of people who died due to a road transport accident in 2011 were male (72.4%). In 2011, younger people, particularly younger men, were more likely to die due to a road transport accident than older people. The median age at death from road transport accidents for men was 39.9 years, while the median age for women was older (44.7 years).

Impact on the environment

The manufacturing and operation of passenger vehicles uses the world's natural, and often non-renewable, resources such as metals and fossil fuels.(Endnote 6) Passenger vehicles can also have a negative impact on water quality, such as via the run-off from roads which can be contaminated with oil and plastic residues, and on air quality via exhaust fumes.(Endnote 6) Despite increased public awareness of the effect of greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles and the impact on the natural environment, environmental impact and exhaust emissions were the least considered factors in 2012, with only 7% of households taking it into consideration when purchasing a passenger vehicle. In addition, of adults who took public transport to work or study, 5% said it was due to environmental concerns.

Social disorder

Antisocial behaviour such as noisy and dangerous driving were identified as common social disorders by people in the ABS 2010-11 Crime Victimisation Survey. Just over a third of people perceived noisy driving and dangerous driving to be social problems in their area (35% and 34% respectively).

STATE AND TERRITORIES

The number of passenger vehicles registered in each of the states and territories has increased between 2006 and 2013, with the Northern Territory experiencing the largest average annual increase (3.1%).

The number of passenger vehicles per 1,000 population has also increased across all states and territories. Tasmania has experienced the largest number increase, from 554 per 1,000 in 2006 to 597 per 1,000 population in 2013. Western Australian experienced the smallest increase per 1,000 population (from 588 to 597 per 1,000 population).

Number of passenger vehicles
Passenger vehicles per 1,000 population(a)


2006
no.
2013
no.
Average annual increase %
2006
no.
2013
no.

New South Wales
3 395 905
3 877 515
1.9
499
528
Victoria
2 997 856
3 446 548
2.0
586
607
Queensland
2 138 364
2 556 581
2.6
526
554
South Australia
915 059
1 016 590
1.5
585
612
Western Australia
1 205 266
1 476 743
2.9
588
597
Tasmania(b)
271 365
305 913
1.7
554
597
Northern Territory
73 302
91 071
3.1
350
384
Australian Capital Territory(c)
191 763
229 060
2.6
576
603
Australia
11 188 880
13 000 021
2.2
542
568

(a) Estimated Resident Population for 2006 is as at 31 March 2006, Estimated Resident Population data for 2013 are at 31 December 2012 and re-based on 2011 Census of Population and Housing (Australian Demographic Statistics 3101.0 Dec 2012).
(b) Excludes vehicles with registration less than one month before the census date.
(c) Vehicles for which registration expired prior to 31 March were removed by processing systems used before Motor Vehicle Census 2008. Approximately 2% of ACT registrations have been omitted. The error has little impact on ACT annual fleet growth rates.
Source: ABS 2013 Motor Vehicle Census, Australia, 2013

Getting to work

According to the 2011 Census of Population and Housing, Tasmania had the largest proportion of people using a passenger vehicle as part of their transport to get to work (87%), followed by Queensland (85%) and then the ACT (83%, consisting mainly of people in Canberra). While New South Wales had the second smallest proportion they had the largest proportion of people using public transport , such as trains, buses, and ferries to get to work (16%)

ALL METHODS(a) OF TRAVEL TO WORK(b) BY STATE AND TERRITORIES, 2011

(a) More than one form of transport may be specified.
(b) Of those who travelled to work.
Source: ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing

and in capital cities?

In 2011, Sydney had the lowest passenger vehicle use to get to work (70%) and the highest public transport use (25%). Conversely, Adelaide had the highest passenger vehicle travel to work (84%) and the second lowest proportion of people walking to work (2.9%).

ALL METHODS(a) OF TRAVEL TO WORK(b) BY CAPITAL CITY, 2011

(a) More than one form of transport may be specified.
(b) Of those who travelled to work.
Source: ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing

LOOKING AHEAD

Passenger vehicles have provided a convenient way to travel and allowed us greater freedom. More Australians are driving, with many using it as their main method of transport to get to work and study as well as social activities. With an increasing number of passenger vehicles, this high level of passenger vehicles use is likely to continue. ADDITIONAL TOPICS

The great brand rivalry

There were over 30 brands of cars registered in Australia in 2012, showing the diverse range of cars Australians drive. And it is the Bathurst 1000, one of Australia’s most well-known motor car races, which demonstrates a favourite Australian rivalry: Holden versus Ford.

Despite the long running Bathurst 1000 competition between Holden and Ford, it was Toyota which had the greatest number of cars registered in Australia in 2012 (2.6 million), followed by Holden (2.0 million) and Ford (1.6 million).

EXPLANATORY INFORMATION

Data sources and definitions

Data presented in this article have mainly been sourced from the following surveys: ABS Waste Management and Transport Use Survey and the ABS Motor Vehicle Census. Other data sources include the ABS Census of Population and Housing, ABS Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, ABS Causes of Death, and ABS General Social Survey,

This article references people's main form of transport to work or full time study, unless otherwise stated. This is the form of transport used to travel the greatest distance for the usual trip to work, school, college or university. For example, if a person travels in a car as a passenger for 5 kilometres and walk the remaining 1 kilometre to work, then the main form of transport is as a passenger in a passenger vehicle, irrespective of the time each part of the journey takes.

To be able to integrate data from the main data sources, the definition of a passenger vehicle has been used throughout this article.

Passenger vehicles are vehicles constructed primarily for the carriage of persons. Included are cars, station wagons, four wheel drive passenger vehicles and forward-control passenger vehicles, people movers, and passenger vans. Excluded are motorcycles, campervans, utility vehicles, light commercial vehicles, panel vans and cab chassis, light, rigid, and heavy trucks, buses, articulated trucks, and other heavy vehicles (e.g ambulances, cranes, farm machinery).

The Index of relative Socio-Economic Advantage and Disadvantage (SEIFA) combines a number of variables (such as income, education and unemployment) of people, families and dwellings within an area, and ranks these areas on a scale of relative advantage and disadvantage.

Quintiles are groupings that result from ranking all households or people in the population in ascending order according to relevant characteristics and then dividing the population into five equal groups, each comprising 20% of the population. The first quintile represents the areas of most disadvantage and the fifth quintile represents the areas of most advantage.

For more information see Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas.

ENDNOTES

1. Lee, R. 2003, Linking a Nation: Australia's Transport and Communications 1788 - 1970, Australian Heritage Council, <www.http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/ahc/index.html>.

2. Road and Travel Magazine, 2012, Emotional Connection Between Car and Consumer, <http://www.roadandtravel.com/>.

3. Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics (BTRE), 2007, Estimating urban traffic and congestion cost trends for Australian cities, Working Paper 71, BTRE, Canberra ACT, <www.bitre.gov.au>.

4. The longitudinal distance between Steep Point and Cape Byron is approximately 4,000km.

5. Department of Infrastructure and Transport, 2011, Our Cities, Our future: A national urban policy for a productive sustainable and liveable future, <http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/>.

6. Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV), 2010, Impacts of cars on the environment, <http://www.racv.com.au/>.


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