How often do you find yourself getting distracted behind the wheel?
A major Australian study has found that every 96 seconds drivers are distracted by something unrelated to the road. That makes for around 45% of the time spent distracted on the road.
These distractions range from using mobile phones to eating and drinking to chatting with passengers.
The Australian Naturalistic Driving Study (ANDS) is a collaboration between Monash University, UNSW and University of Adelaide’s road safety and accident centres, as well as the Queensland and NSW governments.
The ANDS rigged up more than 300 cars across NSW and Victoria with four cameras and sensors and filmed 379 drivers aged between 22 and 69 for almost two million kilometres.
These distracted drivers caught on camera revealed some dangerous habits. Lead researcher Dr. Kristie Young says that only 5% of the trips occurred with the drivers focusing on nothing other than driving.
Drivers more distracted than ever?
According to ABC News, driver distraction accounts for at least 10 per cent of fatal motor vehicle accidents and 18 per cent of motor vehicle accidents involving serious injury. Road safety researcher Professor Michael Regan said the real numbers were even higher than official figures indicate.
A study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in the U.S found that the risk of an accident increased five times when reaching for devices such as a phone, nine times when reaching for something other than a phone, six times when texting, 10 times when reading and 12 times when dialling a hand-held phone.
Almost 1,300 people died on Australia’s roads in 2016, making for the second spike in road deaths in as many years. The statistics bucked the trend of road fatalities being in gradual decline since 1970.
In 2017, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said he had “no doubt” that mobile phones were partly to blame for a seven per cent rise in the number of road fatalities.
What’s distracting us?
ANDS found that while mobile phones made up a large number of distractions and a large proportion of time distracted, they weren’t the only culprit. Personal hygiene routines including doing make-up and brushing hair made up a large number of distractions but due to being quick to perform, didn’t take up a huge amount of the total time spent distracted.
Dr. Kristie Young said most of the distractions came from adjusting the car’s settings such as temperature control and radio.
Stay focused behind the wheel
Graham Walters’ life was changed forever in 2016 when Katherine Roche hit the cyclist with her car in Burpengary.
Ms. Roche, who was in the car with her children, was trying to put her ringing phone on speaker.
Mr. Walters, who now uses a wheelchair, told Brisbane’s District Court he missed the simple things in life such as holding his wife’s hand, helping with the groceries or hanging out the washing.
He now wants to be the face of a campaign against the use of mobile phones while driving. Ms. Roche was given a wholly suspended two-and-a-half-year sentence for dangerous driving and banned from being behind the wheel for two years.
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Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: October 16, 2019.