Are you distracted and dangerous?

5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMay 8, 2018

This week (7 to 13 May) is Road Safety Week and the AA is challenging everyone to change one thing they do which will make them safer on our roads.

“Whether you‘re a driver, passenger, pedestrian or cyclist, there will be something you can change that will make a difference,” says AA general manager motoring affairs Mike Noon.

“Our road safety has been getting worse rather than better in recent years. It‘s likely more people will die and be seriously injured on roads this year than last year,” he says.

Road Safety Week this year is particularly focusing on risks from distractions and also the dangers of not wearing seatbelts.

“We‘re all guilty from time-to-time of getting distracted when we should be focused on the road,” says Noon.

“Whether you‘re driving, cycling or walking, roads aren‘t forgiving places if you‘re not concentrating on what you‘re doing.”

It‘s estimated that distractions are a factor in at least 12% of crashes.

“Cellphones are an obvious distraction for drivers and pedestrians. Even hands-free conversations can be a problem. It‘s not the same as talking to another passenger because the person on the other end can‘t see what else you‘re trying to concentrate on.

“We‘ve all followed drivers whose speed fluctuates, or they start drifting in their lane, and when you pass them you see they have a phone stuck to their ear. Phone calls take more of your attention than you might realise, meaning you are less focused on your driving.

“If you‘re going to take a call, make it short. And absolutely never text while you‘re driving – your eyes will be off the road longer than you think.”

Noon says pedestrians also need to be aware of how vulnerable they are when they‘re texting and walking.

“For drivers, changing the radio station, eating, or trying to calm down children in the back seat is just as dangerous. You need to pull over if something in the car demands your attention,” says Noon.

The AA also believes up to 50 lives a year could be saved if everyone wore their seatbelt every time they drove or were a passenger in a vehicle.

Although wearing a seatbelt is a habit for most Kiwis, around 5% don‘t.

Last year 100 of the 380 people who died on our roads weren‘t wearing a seatbelt. The AA recently published research that looked into who these people are and found that it‘s not just one group.

“You‘re much more likely to die or suffer serious injuries if you‘re in a crash and not wearing a seatbelt,” says Noon.

“Crashes happen in a split second but can cause a lifetime of pain and loss. It‘s not worth underestimating road risks so always buckle up.”

A range of activities will be happening throughout the month of May to draw attention to road safety issues.

This includes secondary school students who are running a campaign where they‘re seeking sponsorship to go phone-free for 48 hours. The initiative has been inspired by students to help raise money for SADD (Students Against Dangerous Driving) programmes and is being supported by KiwiPlates, the AA and the NZ Transport Agency. It will focus on and highlight the risks of drivers using cellphones.