Car crashes killed or seriously injured 9776 people in regional NSW over four years, but the state government has no specific plan to improve safety on country roads, a report has found.
The state auditor-general's report said Transport for NSW (TfNSW) underspent $104 million on road safety in the last year, including $13.5 million that should have gone to regional road infrastructure.
The department has no road trauma reduction targets for regional areas, even though the proportion of fatal crashes on country roads has not fallen since 2012.
Drivers made up the majority of fatalities in road crashes in regional areas, whereas more pedestrians died in the city, emphasising the need for targeted safety measures.
"NSW government road safety strategies and plans since 2012 have used statewide targets for reduction in road trauma," said the report, tabled in NSW Parliament on Thursday.
"However, TfNSW has no documented plan for implementing these targets in regional areas and no specific target to reduce road trauma in regional NSW - despite regional NSW accounting for two-thirds of road crash fatalities."
Speed, intoxication and fatigue were leading factors in road trauma across the state, according to the transport department's data.
But fatalities occurred at four times the rate in regional areas, where there are higher speed limits and a greater prevalence of risky behaviours like drink-driving and failure to use seatbelts.
The report found the Community Road Safety Fund, the main source of funding, has been underspent since 2019.
Transport for NSW said some of that was due to COVID-19, extreme weather and labour shortages, with infrastructure spending expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.
The report recommended the department develop a regional implementation plan, aim to reduce underspending and fast-track a review to improve engagement with local councils on road safety.
"Good strategy effectively targets risk," the report said.
The department accepted all the recommendations, to be completed in a year.
But Transport for NSW secretary Josh Murray said some of the report's findings were inconsistent with evidence provided to the audit office, including that improved vehicle safety had prevented hundreds of deaths.
Mr Murray defended statewide safety targets, saying they were used nationally and considered international best practice.
The government had set ambitious targets to reduce crash fatalities by 50 per cent and serious injuries by 30 per cent by 2030, he said.
Australian Associated Press