Driving distractions and crash risk

Distractions that divert attention from driving increase your risk of crashing.

Recent research suggests that at least 14% of all crashes involve the driver being distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle. As many as one in ten fatalities have been directly attributed to driver distraction. Yet even though surveys have indicated that 98% of people believe that using a mobile phone while driving, for example, is very dangerous, 28% of people admit to doing it themselves.

Source of distractions that lead to crashes

Distractions from outside the vehicle account for about 30% of the distractions that lead to crashes. And distractions from within vehicles account for up to about 36% (the remaining 34% is unknown).

Typically, the two biggest distractions inside the vehicle are other passengers and adjusting the sound system. Research has also shown that drivers using mobile phones and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) while driving are also much more likely to be involved in crashes. Text entry into a GPS unit while driving can be extremely dangerous. Sending and receiving text messages on a mobile phone while driving is also extremely dangerous, and is also illegal.

Passengers and crash risk

Other passengers can have quite an influence on your driving. Young drivers have a higher crash risk when travelling with passengers of much the same age than when travelling alone. For parents, distractions can come from trying to attend to young children in the back seat of the car when driving. However, regardless of the driver’s age, the fact remains that any distraction that takes away your attention to the driving task significantly increases your chances of becoming involved in a crash. When you are distracted or your attention is divided, you are more likely to make mistakes. This means that you should avoid or minimise distractions when you drive, particularly when you are engaged in complex driving actions.

Reducing distractions means reducing crash risk

While you can’t do much about distractions from outside your vehicle when you are driving, you can reduce sources of distraction inside your vehicle. This will help reduce your crash risk. Unfortunately, while modern cars have many new active and passive safety devices, they are also increasingly becoming the source of significant internal distractions.

  • Mobile phones must be in a cradle fixed to the vehicle, or operated using only Bletooth or voice activation in order to take calls while driving. However, it would be much better to find a safe place to stop and take a call so that you are not distracted in any way when driving. Research has shown that using a hands-free mobile phone can also be a dangerous distraction, particularly in complex traffic situations. More information about mobile phone road rules.

    Note: Learner, P1 drivers and provisional riders are banned from using phones in any way, including hands-free types. You must not use any function of a mobile phone while driving or riding, including when stopped at traffic lights or stuck in traffic. This includes phones in the hands- free mode or with the loudspeaker operating, or sending text messages.
  • Mobile devices that can also function as driver's aids (eg for navigation, Speed Advisor app etc) myst be properly mounted in a cradle and not obscure your view of the road.
  • Only enter text into devices, ie GPS, mobile phone etc when you are parked out of the line of traffic.
  • Turn off the radio or stereo, particularly in new or challenging traffic situations.
  • Collect loose items inside the vehicle and putting them in a bag or box or in the boot.
  • Tell passengers to avoid distracting you.
    • Note: P1 drivers under the age of 25 must not drive between the hours of 11pm and 5am with more than one passenger under the age of 21. P1 riders are prohibited from carrying a pillion passenger.
      Roads and Maritime can grant an exemption from peer passenger restrictions if exceptional circumstances are demonstrated. Further information on how to apply for a passenger restriction exemption is available on the Application for Exemption: Peer-Passenger, One-Passenger or Prohibited Vehicle Condition available on our website or at a registry. An application fee will apply.
  • Only adjust the radio, digital music devices, or load CDs, when stopped if you cannot get help while driving from a front seat passenger.
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