Coordinated by BrakeQBE

Our theme for 2018: Belt on, Phone off - Make it a habit

In New Zealand distractions, or diverted attention, is a factor in a significant number of crashes. Not wearing a seat belt also results in needless deaths and serious injuries.

Road Safety Week 2018 (7-13 May) will focus on seat belts and distractions, with the theme 'Belt on, Phone off - Make it a habit'.

Distractions

Driving is unpredictable and requires 100% of a driver's attention at all times. Using a mobile phone at the wheel, whether hand-held or hands-free, significantly increases the risk of a driver being involved in a crash.

No call or message is worth a life. The distraction of driving on a phone (either hand-held or hands-free) has been shown to be worse than drinking certain amounts of alcohol. Driver reaction times are 30% slower on a hands-free phone than driving with a blood alcohol level of 80mg per 100ml of blood, and nearly 50% slower than a driver not on a phone [1]. Drivers on phones are four times more likely to be in a crash that causes injury [2].

Messaging, browsing, using apps, or social networking is a huge distraction, as it takes mind, eyes and hands off the road. Messaging drivers have 35% slower reaction times and poor lane control [3] and one large-scale study found they were 23 times more likely to crash than an attentive driver [4].

After interacting with an information system such as a phone or other device, it can take nearly half a minute to regain full attention [5]. Rises in smart phone usage, and frequency and duration of use, has led to research indicating levels of addiction [6].

Seat belts

Seat belts are one of the simplest and most important features for protecting vehicle occupants, and wearing them is one of the most basic steps drivers and passengers can take to reduce their risk of death or injury. Using a three-point seat belt reduces the chance of dying in a crash by 50% [7].

It is essential that back seat passengers belt up too, for their own safety and the safety of other vehicle occupants. In a crash, an unrestrained back seat passenger can be thrown forward with enough force to kill the person in front of them.

An adult seat belt is not designed to protect a child, therefore it is essential children travel in appropriate child restraints. Using a properly fitted child restraint that is appropriate for the child's size and weight reduces the risk of fatalities, and can prevent the most serious injuries in many situations [8]. Rear-facing child seats can reduce the likelihood of death and injury in young children and small infants by up to 90% [9].

Whilst the law says children must be in an appropriate child restraint until their 7th birthday, Brake recommends children stay in a child restraint appropriate for their height and weight until they are 148cm tall.

Footnotes

[1] How dangerous is driving with a mobile phone? Benchmarking the impairment to alcohol, Transport Research Laboratory, 2002
[2] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005
[3] The effect of text messaging on driver behaviour: a simulator study, Transport Research Laboratory, 2008
[4] Driver Distraction in Commercial Motor Vehicle Operations, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2009
[5] Measuring cognitive distraction in the automobile III, University of Utah, for AAA Foundation for traffic safety, 2015
[6] Smartphone use and smartphone addiction among young people in Switzerland, Severin Haug, 2015
[7] The Handbook of Road Safety Measures, Elsevier Science 2009
[8] Elvik R et al., The handbook of road safety measures, (2nd ed.), 2009
[9] Jakkobson, L. et al. Safety for the Growing Child – Experiences from Swedish accident data, 2005

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