With Australia’s yearly road toll tragically up 15.9% compared to this time last year , road safety advocates are imploring drivers to consider the real cost of distracted driving.

 

Research results from the CARMA Road Risk Rating  indicate that despite being caught time and time again, driver distraction is fast becoming one of the most prevalent risks on Australian roads.

 

More than half (55%) of Australians admit they have received up to nine traffic infringement fines, clocking up more than $100 million in charges. A conservative figure considering more than a third of drivers admit they don’t even try to obey the road rules.

 

The research revealed that a quarter of Australian drivers admit to frequently talking or texting while driving, with five per cent also checking Facebook or Twitter when behind the wheel.

Russell White, leading road safety advocate and ambassador for CARMA, Supercheap Auto’s Road Safety Initiative, said that what was especially alarming is that 15% of people using the phone while driving ignorantly believe they are still in full control.

 

“The reality is, sending a text message takes an average of 4 or 5 seconds – so if someone is driving at 100kms an hour, this means they aren’t looking at the road while driving the entire length of a football field.”

 

In addition to mobile phone usage, the CARMA Road Risk Rating revealed a number of distracting habits prevalent on our roads. Two in five admit to eating or drinking while behind the wheel, with close to one in ten frequently putting on makeup or checking themselves out in the rear view mirror.

 

Russell White explained that there are four levels of driver distraction:
1. Physical: Taking hands off the wheel
2. Visual: Looking away from the road
3. Auditory: Concentrating on sound other than the road environment
4. Cognitive: Thinking about a task other than driving

 

He adds: “What many drivers perceive as a seemingly minor task - like changing the radio station - is in fact a high risk distraction. This task generally requires taking a hand off the wheel, looking at the stereo, listening out for the music and thinking about whether or not what you hear is worth staying on – a simple activity that combines all four levels of distraction.

 

“Safety aside, while monetary fines and loss of points can deter some drivers from breaking the road rules, the figures show that it’s simply not enough for some. The only way we’re going to get this very serious message across is far better driver education.”

 

“As a society we’ve become far too relaxed and confident behind the wheel, blissfully unaware of how a seemingly simple action – like changing the music – is so incredibly dangerous; not only for the driver of the car, but all other road users they put in harm’s way when they take eyes off the road for even a split second.

 

“Road safety programs like those offered by CARMA and Supercheap Auto provide not just behind-the-wheel training, but advocate a greater respect for risk as well as a crucial and better understanding of all that goes into safe driving,” he concludes.