National News

COVID-19 complacency driving rise in dangerous road behaviour

Australian Road Safety Foundation reveals regional New South Wales drivers taking increased risks

Ahead of this year’s Fatality Free Friday initiative (29 May), the Australian Road Safety Foundation is hoping to curb the extra risks drivers are taking during Covid-19 restrictions.

In fact, the ARSF’s latest research shows that one in four regional New South Wales drivers admit to taking increased road risks since the implementation of Covid-19 lockdowns.

This is a frightening statistic, likely driven by the fact that two thirds of the region’s drivers believe the roads are safer under current conditions.

While it is expected that the road toll would reflect the minimal vehicles on the road, the national year-to-date road toll has only declined by 12.5 per cent compared to the same period last year.

For example, the alarming research confirmed that speeding is already the most common road rule broken, with two thirds of the region’s drivers admitting to being heavy footed. And now, in Covid-19 lockdown conditions, this dangerous driving act has increased by 15 per cent.

What’s more, the most common risks being taken during Covid-19 after speeding include using a mobile phone behind the wheel (6% higher) or driving after a few drinks (3% spike).

ARSF founder and CEO Russell White warned there is never an excuse to be taking risks on or around the roads.

“Sadly, with fewer cars on the roads during coronavirus, we’re seeing an increase in bad driver behaviour, which is unacceptable,” Mr White said.

“Claims research from Suncorp Insurance between 2015 and 2019 shows that approximately 30 per cent of accidents occur in the driver’s own postcode, proving that even a short trip to the shops can be disastrous.

“Road trauma at any time is tragic, but it’s also largely preventable. While our incredible frontline medical and emergency services are already working harder than ever, is that text message or few extra minute’s worth adding extra pressure on these resources?

“For every road death, another 35 Australians are hospitalised. Don’t let a split- second decision change your or someone else’s life forever.”

Shockingly, the research revealed that only seven per cent of the region’s drivers think about the safety of other road users when behind the wheel.

In addition, more than two in three regional New South Wales drivers admit to breaking a road law, with the most common excuses including not paying attention (42%), a brief lapse in judgement (26%), or simply believing it was ‘safe’ to do so (42%).

Distraction also continues to be a common safety issue in the car. In fact, two thirds drivers admit to eating while driving, one quarter admit to using their mobile phone, and one fifth admit to looking away from the road at GPS or music for more than two seconds, which doubles the chance of a crash.

Australian Road Safety Foundation ambassador and motor racing champion Craig Lowndes said every road user is armed with the choice to make the right decisions when behind the wheel.

“Now is not the time to relax. There is no room for complacency on the roads now, or ever, and all lives must be top of mind for road users at all times,” he said.

“The stark reality is that any time you take a risk behind the wheel, you are putting the lives of every motorist, passenger, cyclist and pedestrian around you at risk. Together, we can save precious lives on our roads.”

The research also showed that not even having a child in the car is a deterrent to taking risks on the road.

One in three regional New South Wales drivers (29%) admit to speeding, using their mobile phone or driving distracted when kids are in the car.

Risky road behaviour continues to climb when driving with adult passengers, with half of drivers (52%) admitting to taking risks behind the wheel.

This increases to 70% when driving solo, despite the risk to themselves and other road users, including children.

The research has been released as the ARSF calls on individuals to #ChooseRoadSafety and demonstrate their commitment to reducing the road toll by taking the Fatality Free Friday pledge online.

In memory of the 1,195 people who tragically lost their lives on Australian roads last year, the ARSF is also creating a digital mosaic artwork that will feature 1,195 images of everyday people including families of road trauma victims, first responders, community road safety advocates and those directly affected by road trauma.

Road users can upload an image for the artwork until May 15 by visiting arsf.com.au/supporting-road-safety or take the Fatality Free Friday pledge online at arsf.com.au/take-the-pledge-fff.

 

About ARSF:
The Australian Road Safety Foundation is a not for profit organisation dedicated to improving road safety awareness, enhancing driver education, and reducing the impact of road trauma. The Foundation strives to improve road safety outcomes, develop research and education programs and work to inform policy makers on methods to address road safety issues. It also provides an umbrella organisation for other road safety programs and community groups. ARSF is helping to develop a sustainable strategy for reducing the social and economic costs of road crashes, as well as providing a platform for future research and advocacy programs.

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