We share our love, our food and our gifts at Christmas time – so make sure you keep that generous spirit going on our roads this festive season.
The way we move about is changing and QUT road safety experts say that, with more bikes, scooters and pedestrians joining the vehicle mix, it’s never been more important to be considerate of others.
“Our roads are not the same place as they were 10 years ago, with a more diverse group of users,” said Professor Narelle Haworth from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety-Queensland (CARRS-Q).
“There’s been a shift in lifestyles – more people are using scooters, e-bikes and regular bikes, and we also have more people living in busy urban hubs, which means more people walking around as well.
“Driving is more challenging because of this greater mix of travellers that drivers must consider and share the road with.
“We also know that driver distraction has increased dramatically in the past decade, especially regarding mobile phone use.
“Looking at your phone while driving is now regarded as the most common risk that people take – it’s up there with speeding.”
Professor Haworth said it was easy for people to sometimes become complacent about driving – particularly at a busy time of year.
“We really implore people not to take driving for granted,” she said.
“We really need to be ‘present’ and concentrating when we are on the road and actively monitor our surroundings and watch out for other road users.
“We know people make mistakes and we all need to make allowances for this.
“We can all get frustrated – frustrated about traffic, frustrated about running late, frustrated about things not going to plan. That can then lead to over-reacting to a situation, losing our patience or just losing concentration.
“So one of the best things we can all do – whether we’re driving, cycling, scooting or walking – is to start the journey early and leave ourselves plenty of time. Give yourself some breathing space and try to clear your mind.”
CARRS-Q researcher Dr Mark King said last Christmas saw Queensland set two unenviable records.
“Queensland had its highest number of road deaths for a decade – 13 – in the 2018-19 Christmas period, which officially runs for 12 days from December 23,” he said.
“And Queensland had the most road deaths of any Australian state over that time.
“We should also remember that the number of people hospitalised in Queensland road crashes last Christmas was much larger than this – 182, which is 14 people in our hospitals for every person killed.
“People impacted by road trauma every year include drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, pedal cyclists and pedestrians.
“One of CARRS-Q’s campaigns is called ‘Watch you Pace when Sharing Space’.
“This campaign aims to educate people about the vulnerability of pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, young and older road users in collisions with cars at relatively low speeds – even 40km/h can kill or badly injure someone.
“It’s important to remember this in the context of the shift in lifestyles towards urban areas where different road users are more likely to be sharing space, and where conflicts between vulnerable road users and vehicles are becoming more common.”
And with mobile phone distraction one of the biggest dangers on our roads, Christmas is the perfect time to make sure you have the right technology in your car and won’t be caught out on your phone in the new year when $1000 fines are introduced in Queensland for inappropriate driver phone use.
Technology available includes apps such as iPhone’s Do Not Disturb While Driving and Android Auto, and Bluetooth hands-free kits that are readily available from tech retailers.