There are approximately 13 million passenger vehicles in Australia, and every single one of them has the potential to cause catastrophic damage or even loss of life.
The worst traffic accident in the history of Australia was the Kempsey bus crash, which occurred in late December in 1989 on the Pacific Highway, and involved the head-on collision of two coaches, resulting in 35 deaths and 41 injuries. But while most traffic accidents are nowhere near as catastrophic as that, the fact is that car accidents are a very real threat—one that drivers and passengers alike should understand.
There’s just no way around it; every time you slide in behind the wheel, you’re basically strapping yourself into a deadly machine that could very easily end your life. Don’t kid yourself; human beings just don’t have the reflexes to travel anywhere near the speeds that modern automobiles are capable of reaching, which makes the very act of driving inherently and undeniably dangerous.
Yet, despite this, we’ve come to depend upon our automobiles to the point that many of us simply could not possibly function without them—that’s just part of modern life. But just because we’ve accepted the risks involved in driving, doesn’t mean that we should ignore the facts. Here are nine eye-opening statistics to help you grasp some of the dangers associated with automobiles.
1. Vehicle occupants (drivers or passengers) account for 64 per cent of all fatalities (down from 71 per cent ten years ago). Motorcyclist fatalities now account for 18 per cent of fatalities (up from 12 per cent ten years ago).
The good news is that—as a result of stricter laws, better law enforcement, and improving safety measures—overall traffic fatalities have seen a steady decline over the past decade. Unfortunately, motorcyclist deaths are increasing. Many of these deaths may be linked to inexperience, either from new motorcyclists, or from motorcyclists who have begun riding again after an extended period of inactivity.
This may also stem from the fact that, although automobile safety systems have improved in recent years, most motorcycles are as dangerous now as they were ten years ago, and many riders fail to understand that.
2. Males account for 72 per cent of all road deaths.
Although there exists a stereotype that women are less skilled at driving than men, the numbers seem to indicate the opposite. This may be because men are generally more aggressive drivers, and more likely to take risks. The end result is that men are nearly three times as likely to die in a car crash as are women.
Always try to keep a cool head when driving, and don’t be afraid to pull the vehicle to the side of the road for a few minutes if you are feeling aggressive or agitated.
3. Male drivers age 17–24 make up only 12.7 per cent of all licence holders in Queensland, but account for 20.3 per cent of driver fatalities.
New drivers need to be taught to respect the dangers represented by automobiles, and parents should do everything in their power to ensure that their children follow traffic laws and adhere to the limitations of the provisional licence.
And just as men are more likely than women to be involved in a fatal automobile accident, young-men are the most likely of all. New drivers need to be taught to respect the dangers represented by automobiles, and parents should do everything in their power to ensure that their children follow traffic laws and adhere to the limitations of the provisional licence.
Additionally, parents should consider purchasing newer, higher safety-rated cars for their young drivers, rather than forcing them to use dangerous older models, so that in the event that an accident occurs, the young driver will be better protected.
4. 45 per cent of all young-people deaths are a result of road accidents.
In fact, young drivers are at such high risk of traffic accidents that road fatalities account for nearly half of all deaths of young people in Australia. This makes it a very serious issue that we as a country cannot afford to ignore.
5. In 2013, there were 1,193 traffic-related fatalities in Australia.
Even with the overall decline in traffic fatalities, thousands of Australians are hurt and killed every year as a result of traffic accidents, which means that we’re still not doing enough. Increased safety measures are certainly important, and have a definite positive impact, but the most important steps towards decreasing traffic accidents are education and accountability.
6. Inattention is reported to be the primary cause in nearly 30 per cent of fatal crashes and 45 per cent of serious injury crashes each year.
Given the increasing popularity and availability of mobile smart devices, distracted driving is becoming more and more of a threat on the road. But mobile devices aren’t the only culprit; music, passengers, food and beverages, etc.—anything that distracts a driver from keeping his or her eyes on the road, hands on the steering wheel, or mind on controlling the car, is a distraction that could lead to disaster.
7. Approximately 1 in 4 drivers killed in the last five years had a BAC of .05 or higher. Intoxicated drivers are responsible for 13.5 per cent of crashes.
There are few things more dangerous on the road than an intoxicated driver. Alcohol impairs judgement and reaction time, leading to a significantly increased likelihood that an accident will occur. If you drink, always either arrange for a designated driver, or be willing to hire a taxi to drive you. Remember, any amount of alcohol in your system can lead to a decrease in your driving ability, so always avoid driving if you’ve had any alcohol at all.
8. In a crash in an older vehicle with a safety rating of three stars or fewer, occupants have twice the chance of being killed or seriously injured than if they were driving a higher-rated vehicle.
New cars generally have much higher safety-scores across the board, and are thus less likely to result in death or injury in the event of an accident.
The Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is a reliable and easy way to evaluate a vehicle’s overall safety rating, so before you purchase an automobile, do some research to see what kind of safety-rating it has. New cars generally have much higher safety-scores across the board, and are thus less likely to result in death or injury in the event of an accident.
9. It is estimated that if every Australian motorist were to choose the highest safety-rated vehicle in the same class as their existing vehicle, total safety could be improved by 26 per cent.
Although a great deal depends upon the awareness and capabilities of the driver, there will always be those situations in which an accident is inevitable, and simply cannot be avoided.
When this is the case, the only thing standing between a driver and death, is the car that is being driven. Familiarise yourself with the safety rating of your vehicle, and if it is lower than you’d like consider an upgrade. Purchasing a new car may be a hassle, but if it can help protect you in the event of an accident, it will be worth it.
The website of the Australian Government Department of Finance provides a number of useful driving safety tips. We’d like to cover a few of them here:
Whenever you drive:
1. Make sure that know the posted speed limit, but that you take into account road and weather conditions, the speed of other cars on the road, and the presence of cyclists or pedestrians on the road. There are a number of factors that necessitate a lower driving speed. You must not drive faster than the speed limit shown in the circle. In poor conditions, it is safer to drive slower than the speed limit.
A school zone speed limit sign will tell you the reduced speed limit that you must drive within when driving in the school zone. The sign also shows the times and days the speed limit applies.
2. Use your horn only as a means to alert other drivers to potential threats, and never as a way of punishing or bullying other drivers.
3. Always use your signal before turning or changing lanes. If you plan on turning directly following an intersection, engage your signal while you are still in the intersection.
4. If you experience a flat tyre, keep tight hold of your steering wheel, and gradually pull to the side of the road, taking care to use the brakes only lightly.
5. Always plan your trip ahead of time, so that you don’t have to worry about relying on getting directions from maps or GPS devices.
6. Never drive while drowsy. If you begin to feel tired, pull the vehicle to the side of the road. Fatigue-related crashes are twice as likely to be fatal – drivers who are asleep can’t brake. Being awake for about 17 hours has a similar effect on performance as a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05
Fatigue-related crashes are twice as likely to be fatal – drivers who are asleep can’t brake. Being awake for about 17 hours has a similar effect on performance as a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05
7. Never leave any valuables unsecured in the car.
8. When parking on a hill always set the parking brake and leave manual transmission vehicles in gear. Turn your wheels so that in the event that your car begins to roll, the vehicle will move towards the curb (which may prevent it from rolling any farther).
9. Never leave the paved surface of the road to pass another vehicle, and wait until you’ve passed any crossroads, store entrances, or railroad crossings before you attempt to pass another vehicle.
10. Allow for a four-second following distance behind other vehicles.
11. Always be aware of the possible presence of motorcyclists and/or bicyclists, and allow them a full lane width on the road.
12. Never pass another car that is stopped at a pedestrian crossing; if you attempt to pass the car, you may hit a pedestrian that you were unable to see.
13. Drive slowly in bad weather conditions. As a car accelerates, its tyres ride up on any surrounding water in a phenomenon known as ‘aquaplaning,’ which causes a reduction in tyre traction.
14. If your tyres lose traction, ease your foot of from the accelerator, keep you hands on the steering wheel (only attempt to turn to avoid a collision), and allow the tyres to regain a hold on the road before you attempt to use the brakes.
15. Be aware of the effect that your high beams may have on oncoming drivers, and always disengage them when within 200 metres of other vehicles. When an approaching vehicle fails to disengage their high beams, avert your eyes to the left edge of the lane, so as not to blind yourself.
16. Always scan the road for potential dangers; don’t allow yourself to become complacent.
17. Never act in anger while in control of a car; it’s always better to avoid an altercation than to exacerbate one. If a car is following too close behind you, pull to the side of the road and allow them to pass.
If you feel as though a car that is following you means you harm, then stay calm and proceed to a nearby police station. If you cannot find a police station, then proceed to a well-lit and populated area, such as a shopping center, convenience store, or petrol station. Do not leave the car until the threat has passed, and be sure to report the incident to the police.
Collisions aren’t the only danger inherent in driving. More than a few travellers have discovered the hard way just how uncomfortable it is to be stranded on the side of the road in a car that won’t move.
Collisions aren’t the only danger inherent in driving. More than a few travellers have discovered the hard way just how uncomfortable it is to be stranded on the side of the road in a car that won’t move. Breakdowns, accidents, bad weather, and a host of other factors can all reduce your once proud vehicle to a stationary hunk of metal.
Therefore, if you plan on travelling away from any populated centers, before you leave on your trip, have a mechanic check your car for any problems. Make sure that your mobile phone is completely charged, and be sure to have a car survival kit for emergencies. These kits can be purchased in stores or made at home. They should include such things as:
- Jumper cables
- Basic tools
- A durable knife
- A road atlas
- Car charger for your mobile device
- A high powered torch
- Emergency blankets
- Extra automobile fuses
- Duct tape
- Ready-to-eat food (such as protein bars)
- Bottled water
- Road flares
- Waterproof matches
- A portable radio with extra batteries
- Strong rope
Be sure that your kit contains enough supplies for everyone in the car. Keep your kit in a safe location that will be easy to get to, and that won’t be likely to be damaged in the event of a collision. Stay near the car, and try to contact emergency services.
Knowledge is safety
Yes, cars are inherently dangerous. But by understanding the specifics of that danger, and by knowing how to avoid the risky situations that may arise on the road, you can help to ensure that you arrive at your destination safely.
Perhaps the most important thing that you can learn is a healthy respect for your vehicle. After all, it has the power to get you to where you’re going, but it also has the power to harm you and other drivers. If you accept that fact, then safe driving will be much easier to focus on.
An accident is a worrying thought, so it’s important to be properly covered with suitable car insurance policy so that in the event that something happens, you’re prepared.