We’re all guilty of it, those split-second decisions that you make while travelling in a car that may not be the safest option. Putting on some make-up, changing the radio or moving your seatbelt may all seem like small things, but they could spell disaster in the blink of an eye. With the recent increases in fines and demerit points in some parts of Australia, there has never been a better time to take note of dangerous driving habits to stop ahead of the festive season crack down.
Texting, emailing or commenting on social media
We love our phones and it seems that many drivers continue this love affair as they drive despite being aware of the risks. A recent study of Queensland drivers conducted by the Queensland University of Technology found that 27% reported reading a text whilst driving, while 14% admitted to sending a text as they were driving.
Texting is a dangerous driving habit that not only impairs a driver visually, physically and cognitively but it increases the risk of crashing dramatically. If you find it hard to resist the temptation to pick up your phone while driving, you could try putting it away in another part of the car. Alternatively, you could set the ‘do not disturb while driving’ function on your phone - this automatically activates each time you drive to turn off notifications. If someone texts you while this is activated they will simply receive a message that you’re driving and can’t be disturbed – that means more alone time that you can dedicate to car pool karaoke! Don’t worry you can still access maps and music with ‘do not disturb’ activated, although you should set this up before you start driving, so there’s no excuse!
New technology, new fines
From December 2019, New South Wales introduced mobile phone detection cameras to help prevent accidents resulting from the dangerous driving of a motor vehicle. This world-first technology will soon be rolled out across the country and will be able to detect mobile phone usage and capture it, resulting in a fine for the driver when caught in the act.
In Queensland, from February 2020, fines for using a mobile device while driving will dramatically increase to a hefty $1000 penalty as well as deducting four demerit points, making them some of the heaviest in the world.
Avoid slip-ups by strapping in
We all know how important it is to buckle up when you get into a car, but when you’re on a long journey it can be tempting to move your seatbelt for comfort. Even if you’re a passenger in the back seat and are taking a nap on a long ride, you should ensure that you wear your seatbelt correctly. Don’t forget, seatbelts can only provide true safety if worn properly.
Kick the habit – don’t drive in high heels or thongs
Even though it’s not illegal to wear certain types of footwear when driving, it’s always best to wear shoes that are securely strapped to your feet. It can be hard to control a car when your shoes are falling off and lead to more dangerous driving if your shoes fall off under the pedals.
Food to go
Road trips can be tiring and everyone wants to get to their destination as soon as they can, but eating dinner on the road is not the way to save time. Again, it’s not illegal to eat behind the wheel but it is considered a dangerous driving habit. The concentration required for munching on a burger is not quite the same as chewing on a Fantale. If you’re hungry and need a meal, why not pull over and enjoy your food. This will give you a much-needed break and help you to arrive at your destination safely.
Butt out – abstain from lighting up while driving
Smoking while driving poses many hazards including driver distraction and burns. If you’re driving with minors it’s also illegal to smoke in a car. Cigarette butts thrown out a car window will not just get you a fine, but in the current hot, dry weather risk bush fires.
Steer clear of distractions
A long car trip can feel even longer if you have kids in the back. Thankfully new technology means they can relax and watch a movie to break up the endless games of I Spy. As a driver it’s important to ensure that their movies don’t distract you. The screen should not be visible to the driver or you may receive a fine. If possible, get children to wear headphones to make sure the sound doesn’t distract you.
Dangerous driving habits can be the cause of painful whiplash injuries and even tragic fatal car accidents so, it’s essential to practice mindfulness on the road. All these seemingly small things will help to get you safely to your destination this holiday period so that you can make wonderful memories with your loved ones.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: December 4, 2019.