Australia ranks the seventh highest in cars per capita in the world with 717 cars per 1000 people. More cars on the road means a higher chance of an accident occurring, and unfortunately, Australia has one of the world’s highest road fatality rates. And to put it into comparison, that’s double the rate of the UK. A large portion (36%) of the fatal accidents that occur in Australia, occur in major cities, so if you live in a metropolitan area, you need to play it safe while on the road. However, it may also surprise you to hear that two-thirds of deaths occur in regional and remote areas in Australia. In these areas, there is less infrastructure (like smooth roads and traffic lights) which is a big contributor – but by no means a top cause of road accidents in Australia. So, why are these accidents occurring?
It’s pretty easy to guess some of the top causes of fatal car accidents in Australia, as it’s what we’re often advised against doing on the road by the media: Speeding, drinking, driving when fatigued, and driving distracted. These are Australia’s top causes of car accidents, according to 2016 Budget Direct data. Let’s take a look at these causes and why they are so dangerous.
Speeding is said to be the largest contributor to fatal car crashes in Australia. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Australians are driving at extremely high speeds; they just have to be over the speed limit to be committing a crime. Even lower range speeding can cause serious and fatal accidents. Speed signs have been designated to roads for a reason – they are there to guide you on how to navigate a street or road. They increase or decrease according to the curvature or busy-ness of an area (with other cars or pedestrians). If you speed, you are putting yourself, other drivers, other passengers and pedestrians at risk. When over the speed limit, you have less time to brake or react to a road hazard and you are more likely to get involved in a collision. To avoid accidents and remain safe on Australian roads, always follow the speed limit set out.
Some extra tips for navigating speed signs include:
- Always drive to the elements – if it’s storming, it may be safer to slow down to avoid an accident. Always use your common sense!
- When driving around residential areas, local areas, or built-up areas where there is no speed limit indicated, the speed limit is typically 50 km/h.
- There is no such thing as a ‘fast lane’ on the motorway. The speed limit applies to all of the lanes. You should aim to drive in the left lanes, however, unless overtaking.
- It is an offence in many states to speed up when being overtaken, so make smart decisions when driving.
- Speeding fines in Australia range from $80–$194 for speeding up to 10 km/h over the limit – they only increase from here!
Want to learn more about handling high risk situations on the road? Enrolling in a defensive driving course has many advantages for drivers looking to increase their safety. Learn more about these courses by reading our recent article here!
The more technology advances and the lower the human attention span gets, the more distracted people are. This isn’t ideal for driving, least especially because driver distraction is one of the top causes for accidents on the road. With many Australians addicted to their phone – particularly young Australians – mobiles and other devices are one of the top causes of driver distraction. Mobile phones are a massive hazzard when it comes to distracted driving, along with other top distractions including eating, drinking, screaming children, loud music, and more. In Australia, 18% of fatal car accidents are caused by distracted driving and using a mobile phone multiplies your risk of an accident by four.
While driving isn’t always the most complex task, it does require your focus and attention to identify potential hazards. If you’re glancing at your phone – even for a second – you’re losing awareness of your surroundings and putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. Even if you think you’re good at multitasking, you’re not – put the phone away. If you still believe you’ll be distracted, put it on silent or ‘do not disturb’ to not see or hear notifications
Driving Under The Influence
This has been something authorities in Australia have spent a lot of effort reducing. While the BAC limit has remained at 0.05 for over 25 years, people in Australia continue to drink and drive, causing unnecessary accidents. Further, with the prevalence of drugs in Australia, there are many that also take to other substances. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (even the day after consuming these substances) affects your vision, judgement, and reaction time. In fact, driving while drunk is so dangerous that we made a very sobering article on this topic that you can read here. Our main advice if you’re going to drink is to always count your standards and give your body plenty of time to process the alcohol – remember to eat and drink water to help this process.
Other tips to prevent driving under the influence:
- Drink according to your measurements – if you’re a smaller person, you will need less alcohol to push you over the limit. This means fewer drinks than the one standard per hour to stay within the limit.
- Have a designated driver
- Try to carpool or catch public transport
- Use rideshare or taxi services
- Organise how you will get home/ where you will stay the night before you go out
Lastly, there is driver fatigue. Most car accidents caused by fatigue occur either when the driver is sleep-deprived or when they are driving during their normal hours of sleep. Sleep is a very important part of our lives and when we don’t get enough, our brains don’t process information well. Further, if we are exhausted enough, our bodies will quite literally shut down – even momentarily without our awareness. This is called a microsleep and is a very dangerous phenomenon on the road.
Even without falling into a microsleep, fatigue is dangerous. Being awake for 17 hours makes you as dangerous as someone who has been drinking (with a BAC reading of 0.05). At this stage, you are twice as likely to have an accident as someone with a 0 BAC and who is not fatigued. The likelihood of an accident keeps increasing the longer you stay awake – a person that has been awake for 24 hours is seven times more likely to get into an accident! Unfortunately, the people most at risk are shift workers, people with sleep disorders, and young people.
Fatigued driving is particularly common in rural areas. This is most likely due to the long roads, minimal stimulation, and long distances between destinations. If you are driving around rural or remote areas, it’s important to take regular breaks and time-outs to get some rest and recuperate.
As we’re in the midst of holidays and there are more people on the road, it’s more important than ever to be safe and cautious – for yourself and other drivers. Ensure you are getting plenty of rest, putting the phone away, sticking to the speed limit, and not driving over the limit to keep yourself as well as others in the safest of hands. You’ll also be protecting yourself from harsh fines and penalties!
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