Media release

AMA urges community and family focus on road safety this holiday season

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, today urged all Australians to take special care on the nation’s roads this holiday season to reduce the risk of car and other vehicle accidents.

A/Prof Owler, a Sydney neurosurgeon who regularly operates on the victims of road carnage, said there had been a remarkable reduction in national annual road fatalities over the last ten years – down by 25 per cent since 2003 – but too many lives are still being lost or harmed because of carelessness on our roads.

“Speed cameras, road improvements, random breath tests (RBTs), better policing, and strong public education campaigns have done an enormous amount to change driver behaviour and help prevent crashes,” A/Prof Owler said.

“However, risky driver behaviours such as alcohol and drug abuse, speeding, driver fatigue, and novice drivers and riders continue to contribute to an unnecessary and avoidable high road toll.

“The holiday season sees more people on the road on their way to parties, holidays and family get-togethers, so the risk to drivers, riders, passengers and pedestrians is greater than normal,” A/Prof Owler said.

A/Prof Owler said that careful planning of trips and safer driving could mean the difference between a family outing and a family tragedy.

“Speeding is still a factor in about one-third of road fatalities in Australia, and more than 4,100 people are injured in speed-related incidents each year,” A/Prof Owler said.

“Even driving 5kms over the speed limit doubles the likelihood of a casualty crash.

“Because more people tend to drive just over the limit to avoid speed traps, low level speeding results in more crashes than high level speeding. 

“Driver fatigue is one of the top three contributors to the road toll.

“Research shows that fatigue can be as dangerous as other road safety issues, such as drink driving.

“Drivers need to be aware of their tiredness level and plan their trips accordingly, with regular breaks and rests or change of drivers.”

A/Prof Owler said the economic cost of road crashes in Australia is estimated at $27 billion per annum, and the social impacts are devastating.

“A fatal crash affects not only the individual or individuals who are killed or injured, but their family, friends, witnesses, and the broader community.

“Driving safely, slowly, and carefully will make the holiday season happier for everyone.”

The AMA recommends simple steps to help reduce the risks on the roads this holiday season:

  • get a good night’s sleep;
  • do not drive if affected by alcohol or other substances;
  • avoid driving at night when your body will naturally want to sleep;
  • arrange to share the driving;
  • plan to take regular breaks from driving (use rest areas);
  • find out if any medicine you are taking may affect your driving; and
  • know the early warning signs of fatigue.

18 December 2014

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