Beauty is dangerous. An estimated 30% of drivers who crash while distracted are looking at something outside the window when it all goes wrong. And Australia has some pretty distracting scenery outside that window.
You might think of rubbernecking as ‘peering back to see road crash details while driving.’ But admiring landmarks is a form of rubbernecking that causes nearly as many accidents as gawking at pile-ups.
Sadly, when you look away from the road, you endanger not just yourself and other motorists but those on the other side of the white lines. One in five people (18.41%*) who die in road accidents are not even motorists – they may be pedestrians or cyclists, for example.
For our new study, Budget Direct analysed government data to identify the Australian sites of exceptional beauty with the highest accident rates on nearby roads.
Canberra and Western Australia Have Most Distracting Landmarks
We discovered that two of the five most distracting landmarks are in the Australian Capital Territory, despite it being by far the smallest territory or state. The National Library of Australia is a rare Canberran example of the Stripped Classical style. It’s quite a sight: as well as forming part of the Parliamentary Triangle, the Commonwealth Heritage-listed building is reflected in the waters of Lake Burley Griffin.
However, being positioned at the fulcrum of the capital’s administrative district puts the building in the line of considerable traffic. With 137 accidents on roads overlooking the building, the National Library of Australia is the country’s second-most distracting landmark.
But the number one accident hotspot has a curious feature: a dozen 700-year-old bells relocated from one of London, England’s, busiest areas, Trafalgar Square. The bells were donated to create the Bell Tower (or Swan Bells) in Perth, WA, in 1988, in celebration of Australia’s Bicentennial. The tower’s illuminated glass spire makes it a sight to behold – and 152 crashes occurred on adjacent roads in just one year.
Scroll on to discover the most distracting landmarks in each state and territory.
New South Wales
Bridges account for two of the three most distracting landmarks in New South Wales. Perhaps Sydney Harbour Bridge can’t take all the blame/credit for being the region’s number one: the harbour itself, the Sydney Opera House, and Sydney Observatory can be seen from some of the same roads. However, with 83 crashes, the bridge takes the crown.
Cricket may seem a gentle sport, but the danger is its hypnotic quality. Brisbane Cricket Ground (‘The Gabba’) seats 42,000 people, which makes for busy roads on match day – such as one Wednesday in December 2018, when a Nissan Skyline smashed three pedestrians through a shop window. Somehow, nobody was seriously hurt. But this is just one of 79 annual crashes outside Queensland’s most distracting landmark.
The west wing of Parliament House in Adelaide was completed in 1889 with marble from Kapunda and granite from West Island. The rest of the building was added piecemeal until finding its current form in 1939. Built in Greek Revival style, the seat of power in South Australia has plenty of detail to catch the eye.
Victoria’s most distracting landmarks take a relatively low toll on road users. Vic Market has been the beating heart of the city since opening on 20 March 1878. A cruise around the perimeter is something of a step back in time, thanks to the integrity of the market’s façade. However, along with 1,000 car parking spaces in the vicinity, this has proved a treacherous lure for motorists.
The most distracting landmark in Western Australia (and the whole country) has more than double the accidents of the regional number two. The Bell Tower witnesses 152 prangs per year, next to just 72 outside St Mary’s Cathedral. The church building has been in development since 1863, with elements appearing in Norman Gothic and Academic Gothic styles.
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory is home to the country’s second-most distracting landmark, as detailed above – but it’s also home to the national number three. There is some overlap between the National Library building (137 crashes) and the National Carillon (98) as they face each other across the Molonglo River. You can see both landmarks from the notorious Parkes Way.
Talk to Your Loved Ones About Rubbernecking
The danger of distraction from a beautiful landmark continues even after it’s out of sight. In fact, researchers found that it can take around 15 seconds or more to get back to full concentration after a distraction while driving.
But everybody knows the temptation. And, driving at speed, it’s not always easy to make a wise decision in the blink of an eye.
So, before you (or the young drivers in your family) get behind the wheel, take a moment to study how you can reduce the risk of a rubbernecking accident.
- If you want to look, then stop to look.
- If you don’t have time to stop, remember you can come back later or look on Google Earth.
- Talk to your teens about concentrating on the road – teen drivers are 33% more likely to be involved in a distraction-related fatal crash.
- Check out our full data below to identify high-risk landmarks near you.
METHODOLOGY & SOURCES
We made a list of iconic landmarks for each Australian state. Then we analysed government accident data (follow the links at the bottom of the page for specific references) to discover which iconic Australian landmarks experience the most crashes on the roads adjacent to them.
Data with coordinates was unavailable for Northern Territory and Tasmania, so those states were omitted from the analysis.
*Calculated from 2018 figures for Accident Type.
Disclaimer: This information is general in nature only and does not constitute personal advice. While Neomam has endeavoured to ensure the information relied on is accurate and current, Budget Direct does not guarantee it and accepts no liability for this information.
Transport for NSW. (2021). Crash and casualty statistics - LGA view. roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au
Data Vic. (2021). Crash Stats - Data Extract. discover.data.vic.gov.au
Queensland Government. (2021). Crash data from Queensland roads. data.qld.gov.au
Government of South Australia. (2021). Road Crash Data. data.sa.gov.au
Government of Western Australia. (2021). Crash Information (Last 5 Years). catalogue.data.wa.gov.au
ACT Government. (2021). ACT Road Crash Data. data.act.gov.au