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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1996  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/1996   
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Contents >> Transport >> Special Features: Car use

Special Features: Car use

Cars are the most common form of transport in Australia. In 1992, 71% of Australians used cars on an average day. These people spent, on average, 1 hour 27 minutes per day on car travel.

Transport is necessary for many basic aspects of everyday living such as shopping and working, as well as participating in community activities1. The efficiency of transport systems affects daily life. Every day, people undertake millions of individual journeys. The time people spend on transport affects the amount of time they have available for other activities.

There are many different forms of transport. Cars dominate urban transport in Australia. While public transport is also an important form of transport, its use has been decreasing1. This is mainly due to increasing levels of ownership of cars. However, the use of cars has social costs, such as road accidents (see Motor vehicle traffic accidents), traffic congestion and pollution1.


Cars and car use

Most of the data in this review are from the 1992 Time Use Survey. In this survey cars refer to all road vehicles used for private purposes excluding motor cycles and bicycles. It includes vans, utes etc. The data refer to people aged 15 and over.

In this review, the number of people using transport, and the time spent, are averaged over a 7 day week to give values for an average day. The data exclude transport workers, e.g chauffeurs, in the course of their work.

A journey is travel undertaken for a specific purpose. For example, travelling from home to work is one journey. However, if a trip also includes a stop for another purpose, such as shopping, it represents two journeys, one for work and one for shopping.

Data for average annual distance travelled are from the 1991 Survey of Motor Vehicle Use. In this survey, cars refer to passengers vehicles, which are vehicles constructed for the carriage of less than 10 passengers, such as cars, station wagons, 4 wheel drive passenger vehicles and forward control passenger vehicles.


Mode of transport
Most people use transport every day, and many people use more than one form of transport during a day. Cars are the most common type of transport used. In 1992, 71% of people used cars for transport on an average day. This was followed by walking (33%), taking a bus (5%), taking a train, ferry or tram (4%), and riding a bike (2%).

Transport usage varies according to whether it is a weekday or weekend. Many journeys during the week involve more than one mode of transport, for example, using a car and a bus to travel to work. On the weekend most journeys involve only one mode of transport, thus contributing to an overall reduction in transport usage. In 1992 people were less likely to use cars on the weekend than during the week (67% compared to 73%). They were also less likely to use public transport such as a train, ferry or tram (2% compared to 5%) or a bus (2% compared to 7%) on the weekend than during the week.

MODE OF TRANSPORT USED, 1992

Men
Women
Persons
Mode of transport
%
%
%

Car
73.0
69.5
71.2
    As a driver
66.2
51.8
59.0
    As a passenger
12.3
26.4
19.4
Walking
31.1
34.5
32.8
Bus
4.8
6.1
5.5
Train, ferry, tram
4.6
3.8
4.2
Bicycle
3.0
1.1
2.0
Taxi
1.2
1.3
1.2
Motor cycle
1.1
* *
0.6
Other
1.2
* *
0.8
Total(a)
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Components do not add to total because people may use more than one type of transport during a day.

Source: Time Use Survey (unpublished data).


Who uses cars?
Men were more likely than women to use a car on an average day. Men were more likely to be drivers (66% compared to 52%) while women were more likely to be passengers (26% compared to 12%).

A person's age also affects whether they use a car. Drivers and passengers have different patterns of car use by age. In 1992, 71% of people aged 15-24 used cars, as drivers, passengers or both, on an average day. But only 47% of people of this age were drivers. At this age many people get their licences and buy their first car. For those aged 35-44, the proportion of people using a car increased to 80%, while the proportion who were drivers increased to 74%. For those aged 75 and over, the proportion of people using a car decreased to 40%, while the proportion who were drivers decreased to 26%. This is related to many factors such as retirement, increased participation in home-based activities (see Australian Social Trends 1995, Leisure at home), and increased incidence of disability among the older population.

PROPORTION OF PEOPLE USING CARS, 1992


Source: Time Use Survey (unpublished data)


Type of car use
In 1992, 59% of people drove a car and 19% were passengers in a car on an average day. This high ratio of drivers to passengers decreases the effectiveness of the road transport system and can lead to traffic congestion, deterioration of the road surface and pollution. Strategies to improve the effectiveness of the transport system include car pooling incentives and increasing the efficiency of public transport services2.

Type of car use varies according to the day of the week. People were more likely to travel in a car as a passenger on the weekend than during the week. This may be because families travel together in one car at the weekend but use separate cars and/or public transport during the week, especially for travel to and from work.

TIME SPENT USING CARS, 1992

Aged 15-24
Aged 25-34
Aged 35-44
Aged 45-54
Aged 55-64
Aged 65-74
Aged 75 and over
Total
Type of car use
minutes per day
minutes per day
minutes per day
minutes per day
minutes per day
minutes per day
minutes per day
minutes per day

Men
    Car as a driver
93
92
105
113
96
68
52
97
    Car as a passenger
55
42
50
67
70
60
54
54
    Total car use
90
93
107
116
98
71
53
97
Women
    Car as a driver
72
72
79
70
63
58
51
72
    Car as a passenger
65
54
63
61
67
56
49
61
    Total car use
79
77
85
75
73
62
54
77
Total
    Car as a driver
84
83
93
94
84
64
51
86
    Car as a passenger
61
50
59
62
68
57
50
59
    Total car use
84
85
96
96
86
67
54
87

Source: Time Use Survey (unpublished data)


Time spent on transport
In 1992, those using cars did so for an average of 1 hour 27 minutes per day. People driving cars spent longer than passengers, 1 hour 26 minutes per day compared to 59 minutes per day. Men spent, on average, 20 minutes more per day using cars than women.

People aged 35-54 spent the most time per day using cars, 1 hour 36 minutes per day on average. This was followed by those aged 55-64 (1 hour 26 minutes). The longer time that people aged 35-54 spent is associated with their greater transport related commitments, such as work and family. At these ages people may have children who need to be driven to and from child care, school, social and sporting activities.

In 1992, 46% of people using cars spent between 1 and 3 hours per day in them and a further 46% spent less than 1 hour. 9% spent over 3 hours per day. Victoria had the highest proportions of people spending between 1 and 3 hours (49%) and over 3 hours (10%) per day on car travel.

TIME SPENT USING CARS, 1992

Under 1 hour
1-3 hours
Over 3 hours
Total
State/territory
%
%
%
%

New South Wales
46.0
44.8
9.3
100.0
Victoria
40.3
49.3
10.4
100.0
Queensland
50.0
42.4
7.6
100.0
South Australia
45.5
45.7
8.7
100.0
Western Australia
46.9
46.6
6.5
100.0
Tasmania
44.0
47.9
8.1
100.0
Northern Territory
62.6
35.2
* *
100.0
Australian Capital Territory
51.8
41.4
6.8
100.0
Australia
45.5
45.7
8.8
100.0

Source: Time Use Survey (unpublished data)


Purpose of car use
People use cars for many reasons, such as travel to and from work (including looking for work), education, shopping and leisure. In 1992, shopping was the most common purpose of car use, accounting for 26% of all journeys. This was followed by work (22%) and social activities (19%).

The purpose of car use differs between men and women. Work was the most common purpose of journeys undertaken by men (30%), followed by shopping (21%) and social activities (18%). Shopping was the most common purpose of journeys undertaken by women (30%), followed by social activities (20%) and work (14%).

Social activities, shopping and work were the most common purposes of car use for all ages. However, other reasons people undertake journeys vary according to their age. For example, in 1992, 48% of all journeys for child care were undertaken by those aged 35-44, an age when people are likely to have children requiring care.

The purpose of a journey also affects the time spent on it. In 1992 people spent, on average, 20 minutes per journey. The longest time spent was for active leisure. 7% of journeys were undertaken for active leisure reasons, such as exercise and holiday travel, and these journeys took an average of 32 minutes each. This was followed by journeys for work (31 minutes per journey) and journeys for education and passive leisure, such as travelling to borrow a book or video (22 minutes per journey). Time spent on travel is also related to distance travelled. For example, people are likely to live relatively close to shops, education and child care facilities, but further from work. Therefore, journeys to work take longer than journeys for these purposes.

PURPOSE OF JOURNEYS USING CARS, 1992

Proportion of people
Proportion of journeys
Time spent per journey
Purpose of journey
%
%
minutes

Shopping
46.2
25.7
13
Work(a)
41.7
22.0
31
Social activities
36.3
18.7
20
Voluntary & community activities
17.8
9.3
18
Active leisure
16.7
7.4
32
Child care
12.9
9.0
13
Domestic activities
9.9
5.4
16
Education
4.7
2.0
22
Personal care
1.5
0.5
16
Passive leisure
* *
0.1
22
Total journeys
100.0(b)
100.0
20

(a) Includes journeys to and from work as well as journeys to look for work.
(b) Components do not add to total because people may undertake journeys for more than one purpose on an average day.
Source: Time Use Survey (unpublished data).


Distance travelled
In 1991, the average annual distance travelled by cars in Australia was 14,300 kilometres, down from 15,900 kilometres in 19713. This fall is partly a reflection of the increase in the average number of cars per household over that period.

The average annual distance travelled varies according to the state/territory in which a person lives. In 1991, cars registered in the Australian Capital Territory had the highest average distance travelled, 16,300 kilometres. Cars registered in Tasmania recorded the lowest average, 12,300 kilometres. The higher average distance travelled in the Australian Capital Territory may be related to the population's greater reliance on private motor vehicle transport compared to other places in Australia, including greater use of cars for travel to other cities.


International comparison
The average annual distance travelled by cars varies considerably between countries. It is affected by numerous factors including the level of urbanisation and the number of cars per capita. One of the most important is the effectiveness of the road transport system, such as road conditions, the availability of other modes of transport, the cost and reliability of public transport systems, the cost of running a car, and the cost and availability of parking.

Of the countries selected, USA had the highest annual average distance travelled per car, followed by Hong Kong. Japan had the lowest annual average distance travelled. A combination of lack of space for parking, centralisation of business, and an effective and efficient public transport system explain this low average annual distance travelled by cars in Japan.
AVERAGE ANNUAL DISTANCE TRAVELLED BY CARS, SELECTED COUNTRIES

Year
Average distance travelled
Country
kilometres

Australia
1991
14,600
France
1994
14,535
Germany
1993
12,700
Great Britain
1994
16,000
Hong Kong
1994
17,658
Japan
1994
10,130
Sweden
1993
12,000
United States of America
1993
17,862

Source: International Road Federation (1995) World Road Statistics, 1990-1994.

Endnotes
1 Industry Commission (1994) Urban Transport: overview, findings, and recommendations, Report No 37.

2 Ecologically Sustainable Development Working Group (1991) Final report - Transport, AGPS, Canberra.

3 Survey of Motor Vehicle Use, Australia (cat. no. 9208.0).


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