by Collyn Rivers
RV Accident Data
Some general accident information for Australia.
The number of accidents that involve cars towing travel trailers is no higher than cars generally, but the nature and physics involved in the now 400 or so a year that jack-knife (with many rolling over) are unique. No other on-road combination has this type of accident.
This article provides information on the number, type and location of RV-related insurance claims in Australia.
Further articles on this website explain how and why these accidents happen – and our newly published book ‘Why Caravans Roll Over – and how to prevent it’ is endorsed by Caravan Council of Australia as ‘ESSENTIAL READING’.
Accident Data Sources
We are grateful to the Australian insurance sector, The Suncorp Group and Insurance Australia Group (‘IAG’) in particular, for providing us with this information. WA’s Road Safety Commission has also provided some very useful data.
All state and territory road accident authorities collect data on road accidents, but information relating to RVs, trailers or travel trailers is not always separately collated. Where this is done, we will seek to include it here.
We are indebted to the Suncorp Group for providing us with the following data. The Suncorp Group (consisting of Suncorp, CIL, APIA, AAMI, GIO, Resilium, Shannons, Vero and AA Insurance) is one of the largest travel trailer insurers in Australia.
Suncorp Total Travel Trailer Claims
Below is a chart showing the total number of travel trailer insurance claims made to the Suncorp Group over the last five years. Note that these claims include all claim types, including for example storm damage to travel trailers whilst parked, as well as claims made during towing:
Here is a chart showing the incident location of Suncorp’s travel trailer claims since mid 2013:
Suncorp – Top Five Travel Trailer Claim Causes
Here’s a chart showing the top five causes of Suncorp’s travel trailer claims since mid 2013:
Suncorp’s total travel trailer claims over the last 3 years have increased by around 2% each year. This is less than the 5% increase in travel trailer registrations over the same period, which would indicate that the number of claims per registered travel trailer are in fact decreasing.
This claim data includes all claim types including weather-related claims – the top five causes are shown above. There is little travel trailer owners can do about the weather, but the number of accidental collisions with a stationery object indicates that greater care needs to be taken when moving a travel trailer either forwards or backwards.
Incident locations seem generally in line with where travel trailer owners go on holiday. NSW roads are also some of the busiest in the country.
Insurance Australia Group
Insurance Australia Group (‘IAG’) is a leading Australian insurer that sells insurance under a range of brands including NRMA Insurance, CGU, SGIO, SGIC, Swann Insurance and WFI.
Here is a summary of IAG’s travel trailer collision claims over the last four years:
The table above shows a breakdown of the type of collision claims. In terms of definitions:
- ‘Damage whilst parked‘ means damage that has occurred to the vehicle while it was parked, either from another vehicle or object that has damaged the travel trailer to the extent where the customer needs to make a claim
- ‘Impact damage‘ refers to hitting a stationary object while moving
- ‘No Other Party/Property’ are single vehicle collision (e.g. reversed into a bollard or travel trailer rollovers).
Other claim types excluding collisions include theft, natural peril damage (storm/ hail/ bushfire etc.) and malicious damage (vandalism). In the last financial year, over a quarter of the travel trailer claims lodged were primarily attributed to collisions on the road.
At our request, IAG has kindly isolated for us their travel trailer ‘collision’ data to allow us to focus on the risks involved in towing a travel trailer on the Australian road network rather than the risks of keeping a travel trailer at home or in a travel trailer.
Consistent with the Suncorp data, IAG’s effective claim numbers are decreasing, which is good news.
But within these statistics are some causes for concern. These include:
- In 2016-17, 54% of IAG’s collision claims were the result of an incident that involved no other party or property
- In 2016-17, 35% of IAG’s collision claims were the result of ‘impact damage’, i.e. hitting a stationary object whilst moving. This type of incident has increased significantly in the last two years compared to the previous two years.
Together this suggests that, in IAG’s case, 89% of collisions, or roughly 1,350 claims in 2016-17, were the result of the driver of the tow vehicle losing control the travel trailer (because no other person or object was involved) or not driving with due care and attention (because they hit a stationary object).
This would in turn indicate that those towing travel trailers are more a danger to themselves (and to stationary objects) than other road users.
The significant increase in recent years in the percentage of stationary objects being hit could be due to an increase in numbers of new (and inexperienced) people taking up caravanning. Further research would be needed to test this theory.
Western Australia Road Safety Commission
The Western Australia Road Safety Commission is one of the few state or territory accident authorities to collect accident data that is identifiable with towing a travel trailer.
This information is particularly valuable to towing safety research, since it focuses on road accidents rather than general insurance claims.
WA Crashes Involving a Towed Travel Trailer 2012-2016
WA – Nature of Towed Travel Trailer Crashes 2012-2016
PDO = Property Damage Only
This data from WA reveals a wide range of interesting information:
- The number of crashes involving a travel trailer in WA has declined significantly from 104 in 2012 to 60 in 2016. Considering the increase in travel trailer registrations during this period (approximately 5% per year), this is a remarkable decline.
- Only about 25% of travel trailer crashes resulted in personal injury, and only two fatalities were recorded out of 411 crashes over five years. This also means that about 75% of travel trailer crashes in WA involved property damage only.
- The most common crash cause during this period was ‘rear end’ collisions, accounting for about 20% of accidents. ‘Side swipes’ accounted for 14% of accidents.
- About 25% of accidents took place ‘off road’, or alternatively, 75% of accidents took place on a road or highway.
- About 13% of accidents during this period were caused by being ‘out of control on carriageway’. This percentage is likely to include a significant number of travel trailer rollovers.
We would like to see similar information from other states and territories before making any comparisons, but it will be interesting to see whether WA’s reduced 100 km/h speed limit for towing trailers is having any impact on towing safety compared to other states.
Together, the Suncorp Group and IAG insure about two thirds of motor vehicle owners in Australia. No market share data is available for the travel trailer insurance sector, but it would not be an unreasonable assumption to say that the market share of these two insurance groups is likely to be similar in the travel trailer market to the motor vehicle market.
This would mean that we are receiving information that relates to about two thirds of the travel trailer market. Having additional data from the Western Australia Road Safety Commission is a bonus.
Whilst further research needs to be done, our preliminary conclusions from this data are:
- the numbers of insurance claims in the travel trailer sector are declining. This is good news and could be due to improved driver education, greater market availability of lightweight travel trailers and the recent availability of anti-sway technology
- The risks of personal injury following a travel trailer incident on a public road appear to be relatively low
- The number of ‘single vehicle’ incidents that are the result of a loss of travel trailer control or inadequate due care and attention are remarkably high. The latter could be due to towing inexperience, whilst the former could be due to overweight or incorrectly loaded travel trailers or an inappropriate weight ratio between tow vehicle and travel trailer.
We welcome your comments.