A four-year study led by the University of New South Wales with support from VicRoads and others has found that on average, drivers are distracted 45 per cent of the time.
Consistent with research conducted by Dr Kristie Young, Senior Fellow with Monash University’s Accident Research Centre and Lead Researcher on the Australian Naturalistic Driving Study research on distraction, this study found that drivers spend a large amount of time engaging in secondary tasks that are unrelated to driving such as talking or texting on a phone.
Using multiple sensors and cameras installed in the cars of approximately 360 volunteer drivers across Victoria and NSW, the study found that drivers are distracted every 96 seconds, on average, with activities such as texting or talking on a phone, ‘personal hygiene’, reaching for something or performing one or more tasks at once.
It appears drivers to some extent know how distracting these secondary tasks are – with drivers engaging in secondary tasks for shorter amounts of time while the car is moving, compared to when it’s stationary.
One in 20 of these distractions resulted in near misses on the road.
Distracted driving is widely acknowledged as a significant threat to the safety of all road users – with growing evidence that distraction is an important contributor to both fatal and serious injury crashes. One in-depth crash study in Australia identified distraction as the main contributor in almost 16 per cent of serious injury road crashes resulting in hospital attendance.
A driver’s primary task should be, safe vehicle control, according to VicRoads. In Victoria, several measures are in place to deter distractions while driving. It is illegal in all Australian states and territories to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving, and in Victoria, drivers who break this law will receive an on-the-spot fine and incur demerit points.