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MEDIA RELEASE

29 May 2020

AUSTRALIANS IMPLORED TO CHOOSE ROAD SAFETY THIS FATALITY FREE FRIDAY

As Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease and drivers get back behind the wheel, the Australian Road Safety Foundation (ARSF) is urging road users to ensure all lives are top of mind this Fatality Free Friday (29 May).

New research released by the ARSF reveals risky driver behaviour increased during Covid-19, with one in four Australians admitting to taking additional road risks while lockdowns were in place.[1]

This is a frightening statistic, likely driven by the fact that two thirds of drivers believed the roads were safer under Covid-19 conditions. However, 365 people still tragically lost their lives on Australian roads between January and April this year.[2]

The alarming research confirmed that speeding is the most common road rule broken, with two in three Australian drivers admitting to being heavy footed. In Covid-19 lockdown conditions, this dangerous driving act increased by 17 percent.

What’s more, the most common risks taken during Covid-19 after speeding included using a mobile phone behind the wheel (9% higher), running a red light or stop sign (5% increase), or driving after a few drinks (3% spike).

ARSF founder and CEO Russell White warned there is never an excuse to be taking risks on or around the roads.

“With fewer cars on the roads during the coronavirus crisis, we saw an increase in bad driver behaviour, which is simply unacceptable,” Mr White said.

“As we start to return to a sense of normality, the number of vehicles on our roads will continue to climb and we cannot afford to become complacent.

“For every road death, another 35 Australians are hospitalised. Road trauma is tragic, but it’s also largely preventable.

“The stark reality is that every time you make a dangerous decision behind the wheel, you are putting the lives of every motorist, passenger, cyclist and pedestrian around you at risk.”

Shockingly, the research revealed that only seven percent of drivers think about the safety of other road users when behind the wheel.

In addition, four in five Australians admit to breaking a road law, with the most common excuses including not paying attention (39%), a brief lapse in judgement (30%), or simply believing it was ‘safe’ to do so (20%).

Distraction also continues to be a common safety issue in the car. In fact, more than half of drivers admit to eating while driving, one third admit to using their mobile phone and one quarter admit to looking away from the road at GPS or music for more than two seconds, which doubles the chance of a crash.

The research also showed that not even having a child in the car is a deterrent to taking risks on the road.

One in three Australian drivers (29%) admit to speeding, using their mobile phone or driving distracted when kids are in the car.

Risky road behaviour continues to climb when driving with adult passengers, with half of drivers (50%) admitting to taking risks behind the wheel.

This increases to 62% when driving solo, despite the risk to themselves and other road users, including children.

The research has been released as the ARSF calls on individuals to #ChooseRoadSafety and demonstrate their commitment to reducing the road toll by taking the Fatality Free Friday pledge online.

Gary Dransfield, CEO Insurance for Suncorp Group, founding partner of the ARSF and one of Australia’s leading insurers including brands AAMI, GIO and Apia, stressed today’s initiative was incredibly important.

“Our claims research shows approximately 30% of accidents causing injuries occur in the driver’s own postcode[3] – proving even a short trip to the shops can be disastrous so drivers must not become complacent,” Mr Dransfield said.

“We see first-hand the devastating effects motor collisions have on people’s lives, that is why we’re encouraging all Australians to make a commitment to themselves, their friends, family and local community that they will drive safely each and every day.”

Australian Road Safety Foundation ambassador and motor racing champion Craig Lowndes said every road user is armed with the choice to make the right decisions when behind the wheel.

“Now is not the time to relax. There is no room for complacency on the roads now, or ever, and all lives must be top of mind for road users at all times,” he said.

“The stark reality is that any time you take a risk behind the wheel, you are putting the lives of every motorist, passenger, cyclist and pedestrian around you at risk. Together, we can save precious lives on our roads.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development stated “Road safety is of vital importance to each and every Australian, each and every family.

We’ve all been touched by someone who’s been involved in a road accident.

Fatality Free Friday reminds us of just how important road safety is and I commend the work of the Australian Road Safety Foundation led by Russell White.”

ARSF acknowledges the support and commitment of our key Foundation partners Caltex, Suncorp, Australian Government, Queensland Government, PPQ, MyPlates and newly welcomed vehicle partner Subaru.  Subaru has a proven and proud history of putting safety at the heart of everything they do, aiming to protect road users throughout every moment of their journey.

In memory of the 1,195 people who tragically lost their lives on Australian roads last year, the ARSF today released a digital mosaic artwork that features 1,195 images of everyday people including families of road trauma victims, first responders, community road safety advocates and those directly affected by road trauma.

Road users can take the Fatality Free Friday pledge online at arsf.com.au/take-the-pledge-fff.

– ENDS –

For media enquiries, please contact Thrive PR:

Donna Caley | donna@arsf.com.au | 0410 075 065

About ARSF:

The Australian Road Safety Foundation is a not for profit organisation dedicated to improving road safety awareness, enhancing driver education and reducing the impact of road trauma. The Foundation strives to improve road safety outcomes, develop research and education programs and work to inform policy makers on methods to address road safety issues. It also provides an umbrella organisation for other road safety programs and community groups. ARSF is helping to develop a sustainable strategy for reducing the social and economic costs of road crashes, as well as providing a platform for future research and advocacy programs.

[1] Research conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of the Australian Road Safety Foundation, April 2020, n=1,005 nationally representative by gender, age and location of Australian drivers aged 18 years and over.

[2] The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE), https://www.bitre.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/rda_apr_2020.pdf (accessed 20 May 2020).

[3] Suncorp Group Queensland motor accident claims data 2015 – 2019, as at 31 March 2020.