Regional drivers taking extra risks on our roads
A NEW survey has found that while the number of cars on regional NSW roads has decreased as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, regional drivers are taking greater risks while behind the wheel.
The Australian Road Safety Foundation yesterday released its annual research report, which shows one in four regional NSW drivers admit to taking increased road risks since the implementation of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Ahead of this year's Fatality Free Friday initiative on May 29, the ARSF is hoping to curb the extra risks drivers are taking.
The alarming research confirmed that speeding is already the most common road rule broken, with two thirds of the state's regional drivers admitting to being heavy footed and now, in COVID-19 lockdown conditions, this dangerous driving act has increased by 15 per cent.
The ARSF research found the most common risks being taken during COVID-19 after speeding included using a mobile phone behind the wheel (6 per cent higher) or driving after a few drinks (3 per cent 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 minutes 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 NSW drivers admit to breaking a road law, with the most common excuses including not paying attention (42 per cent), a brief lapse in judgment (26 per cent), or simply believing it was 'safe' to do so (42 per cent).
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.
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 per cent) 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 per cent) admitting to taking risks behind the wheel.
This increases to 70 per cent when driving solo, despite the risk to themselves and other road users, including children.