Results published in the new issue of international journal, Injury Prevention, show that driver distraction causes one in five crashes reported by drivers. Findings from an Australian study on driver distraction found that drivers engage in a distracting activity on average once every six minutes, which frequently results in driving errors and road accidents.
The research, announced and undertaken by The George Institute for International Health and The University of Western Australia, reported that during a driving trip, 72% of drivers will display a lack of concentration, 69% will adjust in-vehicle equipment, 58% are distracted by outside events, objects or people and 40% talk to passengers.
The survey involved more than 1300 drivers aged between 18 and 65 in New South Wales and Western Australia.
Chief Investigator of the study, Dr Suzanne McEvoy, said that while driver distraction is extremely common, the rate of driver error following a distraction is of particular concern. "The study found that one in five driving errors was a result of distraction. These errors included braking suddenly, failing to see road signs and taking wrong turns. Most importantly, such errors can lead to crashes and this is a critical issue facing road safety authorities," said Dr McEvoy.
Young drivers, aged 18-30, were also found to be significantly more frequently distracted while driving. While this group perceived distracting behaviours to be less hazardous than older drivers, they were significantly more likely to crash as a result of being distracted.
Professor Mark Stevenson, Senior Director at The George Institute, Chair of the Australasian College of Road Safety (Sydney), and co-author of the study, highlighted the need for a strategy to minimise distracting activities while driving, with a strong focus on young drivers.
"The exposure to distracting activities is high and action to reduce crashes caused by this behaviour is urgently needed. Policies that include driver education and innovative enforcement practices are essential to decrease the prevalence of these behaviours and thereby, reduce the adverse outcomes," said Professor Stevenson.
This study was funded by the Motor Accidents Authority of New South Wales (MAA).
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