Did you know that this Friday, the 25th of May is a community awareness day know as Fatality Free Friday?
The goal? It’s simple – zero deaths on Australian roads for just one day.
The day was first established in 2007 and the campaign has continued to expand, year on year, being recognised as Australia’s only national community based road safety initiative. While the campaign focuses on one fatality free day, the end goal is longer term community change and hopefully a significant reduction in road trauma and fatalities, nationwide.
While we can all agree that reducing road fatalities is important, it may be that we’re not as aware of just how many people are losing their lives on our roads, day after day, year after year. For example, in 2017 there were 1,226 road deaths across Australia, that an average of more than 3 deaths per day on Australian roads.
In Queensland specifically, we saw 245 deaths on our roads in 2017 alone, and tragically we have already seen 61 in 2018 (as of the 16th of April). Of the tragic loss of life we have seen in 2018 so far, 48% were drivers, 21% were motorbike riders, 19% were passengers and 13% were pedestrians.
In Queensland, our Police service is focused on reducing these fatalities and accidents across the state through a focus on the ‘Fatal Five’ – the five biggest contributors to death and accidents on our roads.
These five factors are; Speeding; Substance Abuse and Driving; this includes drugs, alcohol and medication; Seat Belts; Fatigue; and, Distraction.
Unfortunately, the statistics behind these focus areas are sobering, and given their impact on driving ability and crash risk, we thought we’d explore these a little more.
Research shows that more than 1 in 5 deaths on our roads are the result of crashes involving speed, but it’s suspected that this figure is higher as it can be difficult to determine all the factors involved in an accident. We do know that travelling only 5km/h above the speed in urban areas and 10km/h in rural areas doubles the risk of a casualty crash.
- Substance Abuse
This fatal factor is broken down into three areas; drugs, alcohol and medication.
- Drugs:Research shows a particularly strong link between drug use and crashes, with the risk of drug driving estimated to be equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1 to 0.15%. A ten year evaluation of road fatalities estimated that 1 in 4 drivers tested positive for drugs, research also shows that drug driving is a contributing factor in approximately 10-30% of road deaths in Australia.
- Alcohol: Of all the factors that contribute to fatal crashes, drink driving is the number one cause – noted as a contributing factor in approximately 30% of fatal crashes in Australia. Statistics also show that over 1 in 4 drivers killed on our roads have a BAC (blood alcohol content) over the legal limit.The most important thing to remember when considering having some drinks and driving later is that the standard Australian guidelines (two for men in the first hour and one every hour after that, and no more than one an hour for women) are simply that, guidelines and that alcohol affects everyone differently and other factors can also contribute to this.
Some prescription medication can adversely impact your driving ability, due to factors such as; drowsiness, slowed reaction time, impacted mental concentration, shakiness or unsteadiness or affected coordination. This can be even worse should you consume alcohol – in some cases, even one drink can greatly amplify the effects of some medications. Unfortunately, research shows that 1 in 4 Australia drivers continue to ignore warning labels and operate their vehicles.
- Seat Belts
Failing to wear a seatbelt is one of the leading causes of death in road accidents, with research showing that unrestrained drivers and passengers are 8 times more likely to be killed in a road crash than those wearing a seatbelt. We also know that wearing a properly adjusted seatbelt reduces the risk of fatality or serious injury by up to 50%.
Unfortunately, statistics also show that approximately 20% of drivers and passengers killed in crashes weren’t wearing seatbelts.
Fatigue or sleepiness contributes to 20-30% of all deaths and severe injuries on our roads, and it’s a particularly dangerous contributor to accidents because it can affect anyone, no matter their experience level and there’s no cure or solution other than solid, restful sleep. We also know that, unfortunately, fall-asleep crashes are typically very severe and result in serious injury or death, as no evasive manoeuvres are undertaken by the driver.
Driver distraction is a major contributor to road accidents, accounting for approximately 1 in 4 crashes. There are many factors that can distract a driver, both inside and outside the vehicle, but mobile phone use is one of the more pervasive ones.
Mobile use is highly distracting, and the use of one while driving increases your risk of a crash four-fold. Even in the face of these facts, and its illegality, approximately 61% of drivers have admitted to using their phones to talk or text while driving.
While these are only a few of the factors that are important to consider when driving on our roads, they are identified through research as the ones we should be most aware of and the ones which tragically, claim the most lives on our roads.
So considering these factors, how can you best prepare yourself before you hit our roads, whether it be for a short journey or a lengthy road trip? We collected a number of the most common tips to consider.
Prepare for the drive:
- if you’re heading off for a drive, especially a longer road trip, you should ensure your car is ready for the journey – make sure it’s up to date with its servicing, oil and other fluids are topped up and you’ve checked your tyres. If you’re towing anything, you should also check out all the mechanisms involved in this.
Plan your trip: before you head off, particularly on longer trips, plan for the drive. This includes where you plan to stop, this could be for a night’s rest or just to stretch your legs and change drivers. If it’s a more rural trip, you should also consider where you’ll stop to refuel.
Drive smart: as the facts above illustrate, it’s not worth driving tired, drink or drug driving or driving distracted. So no matter the length of the trip, you should make sure you’re not too tired, over the BAC limit, under the influence of drugs (prescription or otherwise) or that you succumb to distractions like your mobile phone.
Don’t risk it: again, as the above outlines, speeding increases your risk of an accident, and so does dangerous behaviour such as travelling too close or risky overtaking.
While these tips are probably ones you’ve heard before, they’re important to consider every time we get behind the wheel, or even as a passenger. Even if you’re not driving, you may notice the driver isn’t fit to drive or is being risky behind the wheel, your life is in their hands so don’t be afraid to speak up and let them know what they’re doing is dangerous or that they shouldn’t be behind the wheel.
The same goes if you notice a friend or family member getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t be – reducing these fatalities is something that we can all be a part of, ensuring that we, and those we know and love, make responsible choices and speak up for road safety, every day.
So ahead of tomorrow, we encourage you (and everyone) to consider the statistics and research, which evidence just how risky some of our driving behaviours can be.
We think one fatality free day is something we should all aim for, and that the underlying emphasis on road safety and surviving every drive is something we should consider on Friday, and every other day.
We hope that as this awareness spreads, we will see deaths on our roads reduced, and hopefully one day these will become a thing of the past.