Results presented at the Australasian Road Safety Conference in Sydney recently revealed that Australian drivers are distracted around 45 per cent of the time on our roads. It’s a shocking statistic, but one that highlights the dangers of another often-overlooked problem on our roads.
As a lawyer representing people injured in road accidents, I sadly see the terrible results that occur because of a split-second of distraction on the roads. I am currently representing dozens of people whose lives have been irreversibly changed by the actions of a distracted driver, who left no margin to make that error.
While I am happy to see the discussion increasing around driver distraction, I believe there is still a lack of awareness around the dangerous additional impact of insufficient stopping distances, which leaves no room for such distraction.
The stopping distance for a vehicle travelling at 60 kilometres per hour is around 45 metres, or around nine car lengths. For a vehicle travelling at 80 kilometres per hour, the stopping distance is around 69 metres, or around 14 car lengths. This increases to 98 metres for a vehicle travelling at 100 kilometres per hour. In wet conditions, these estimates are also increased.
As a lawyer working in Dandenong, when travelling on the Monash Freeway, I frequently see vehicles trailing each other with around three to five car lengths between them. Science tells us that even if there is no reaction time and perfectly dry weather, it will take around 11 car lengths to come to a stop at this speed. When we add the impact of driver distraction from activities observed in the study presented last week - such as phone use, conversation with passengers or personal grooming - it is easy to see why the combination of distraction and insufficient stopping distances leads to catastrophe. Many of my clients are injured in this manner on the Monash Freeway in particular, but also around every day roads in the south east.
In an era of increasing traffic congestion, where we are perhaps required to be even more aware of unexpected brake lights, it’s crucial that we each take the time not just to focus more on our driving, but also to increase our stopping distances.
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You can read more about the results from the Australian Road Safety Conference by clicking here.