Change needed to rural road culture

Change needed to rural road culture

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Driver distraction has been named as one of the biggest dangers on the road as the ARSF calls for a culture change on rural roads. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Driver distraction has been named as one of the biggest dangers on the road as the ARSF calls for a culture change on rural roads. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

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WITH rural roads contributing disproportionately to the national road toll, the Australian Road Safety Foundation is using August as Rural Road Safety Month to look at driver attitudes.

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WITH rural roads contributing disproportionately to the national road toll, the Australian Road Safety Foundation is using August as Rural Road Safety Month to look at driver attitudes.

Even with a smaller population, rural roads account for two-thirds of road fatalities, with ARSF co-founder and chief executive officer Russell White saying the stakes were often higher on country roads, with higher speeds and longer wait times for medical assistance among the reasons.

Results from a survey into driver beliefs show 79 per cent of SA drivers admit to breaking road rules, while one-in-five rural drivers say it is more likely to occur on rural roads.

The biggest risky behaviours in rural SA were drug driving, speeding and not wearing a seatbelt, with many respondents saying they are more likely to speed on rural roads as the risk of getting caught was reduced.

Mr White said drink driving was a particular problem in regional areas as there was little access to the public transport available in metropolitan areas. He said there was a perception the risk of getting caught breaking rules was greater than the risk of crashing, and a culture change was needed.

He said the two-thirds of crashes in rural areas were by both metro drivers on unfamiliar roads as well as local drivers who may be complacent or overconfident.

The ARSF data reveals metro drivers not only wrongly believe that rural roads are safer than city streets and motorways, but almost half incorrectly claimed more road fatalities occurred in city areas.

"If you ask most people on the street who is responsible for road safety, they would probably say the government or police, but in the end it is a collaborative effort and we need a sense of community ownership," Mr White said.

"That's how we will get a real culture change."

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The RAA has shared SA Police figures showing driver distraction, such as through mobile phones, contributed to nearly half the lives lost and serious injuries on SA roads in the past five years.

RAA Safety and Infrastructure senior manager Charles Mountain said SA police figures show 43pc of fatalities and 48pc of serious injuries were attributed to distraction between 2015 and 2019.

"You need to be fully concentrated on the task at hand when driving, but at 50 kilometres per hour just a two second glance at your phone means you'll travel around 28 metres blind to what's around you," he said.

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