Many people would assume that Australian roads are safer during the COVID-19 restriction period, however, despite a decrease in the number of cars on Australian roads, road experts have warned that this doesn’t necessarily result in safer driving conditions. There are no excuses for careless driving – it is still as important as ever to be implementing low risk driving techniques to minimise the risk of accident during these unprecedented times.
The proof is in the statistics with Victoria’s road toll being higher than the same period last year despite a drop in traffic due to COVID-19 restrictions (Brisbane Times). Similarly, in South Australia, the road toll nearly mirrors the road toll for this same period in 2019 (ABC). These are confronting statistics considering the significant drop in traffic across the country with Australian citizens only encouraged to leave the house for medical reasons, essential work, grocery shopping and to exercise.
So why are we not seeing a relative drop in the road toll during this period? According to Brisbane Times, road safety expert at the Monash University Accident Research Centre Professor Cameron has warned, “the roads are less congested and likely there will be higher speeds and that means it will be more likely there will be deaths and serious injury.” A drop in cars on the road may be encouraging some motorists to drive at higher speeds, not only on highways but on suburban streets that are no longer congested. With alcohol sales increasing since COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, experts have also warned that this might cause an increase in the number of drink-driving related road accidents.
With fewer vehicles on the road, drivers could also be concentrating less, as a result, less awareness which could lead to auto-pilot driving. Are you guilty of pulling into the driveway and then realising you have no memory of the drive or some portion of the drive at least? This phenomenon is referred to as auto-pilot driving and it is more likely to kick in if there is a reduced need for concentration with reduced traffic on the road.
Ultimately, it is everyone’s responsibility to take care on the roads so that together we can do our part to reduce the pressure on our health system. At Corporate Driver Training Australia, we are encouraging Australians to continue to use low-risk driving techniques when out on the roads. Beware of the dangers associated with a reduction in traffic and take extra care if you are required to drive during this time.