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Pay attention – It could save your life!

AAMI Crash Index 2008If you believe the shock tactics of many state governments around Australia all it takes to be a safe driver is to make sure you stay under the speed limit. That’s it! An over simplified view, perhaps, but filed in the tell-us-something-we-don’t-know drawer is a new report from AAMI that declares “almost half of all crashes on Australian roads could be averted by drivers simply paying more attention”. Nothing could be more simple than that.

Commenting on the release of the 2008 AAMI Crash Index, Public Affairs Manager Geoff Hughes said, “Absent-mindedness is a factor in 44 per cent of all car collisions, with drivers much more likely to crash due to their own inattention than from speeding, fatigue and alcohol combined.

“While speed, fatigue and alcohol are factors in 37 per cent of car crashes, AAMI’s research shows inattention is the number one reason drivers crash into another vehicle or stationary object.”

Given the fact there is so much shock advertising in our daily media it is astounding to see that 34% of those surveyed knowingly exceeded .05 yet still chose to drive. A bit hard to pay attention if you’re pissed. Again, in keeping with the theme of inattention AAMI’s research showed that 20% of crashes happened due to a failure of a motorist to give way.

AAMI’s media release is shown below and the AAMI Crash Index can be downloaded from their website, or here on AUSmotive (700kb PDF).

Absent-minded drivers take their toll

Despite the millions of dollars spent warning motorists against speeding, fatigue and drink-driving, almost half of all crashes on Australian roads could be averted by drivers simply paying more attention, the 2008 AAMI Crash Index shows(1).

“Absent-mindedness is a factor in 44 per cent of all car collisions, with drivers much more likely to crash due to their own inattention than from speeding, fatigue and alcohol combined,” AAMI Public Affairs Manager Geoff Hughes said.

“While speed, fatigue and alcohol are factors in 37 per cent of car crashes, AAMI’s research shows inattention is the number one reason drivers crash into another vehicle or stationary object.”

Mr Hughes applauded state and federal campaigns to reduce the national road toll(2), but said individual drivers ultimately had the power to avert most crashes by changing their behaviour and paying more attention.

“While governments and the police can discourage speeding and drink-driving through education and enforcement, it’s impossible to legislate against absent-mindedness,” Mr Hughes said.

“Drivers need to make better decisions about their fitness to drive, whether it be refraining from driving when emotionally charged or consciously taking a break when fatigue sets in.”

Consulting psychologist John Cheetham agreed, saying the high number of drivers attributing their crashes to inattention was symptomatic of a driving culture that is mindful of everything but driving.

“The lifestyles of working professionals, stay-at-home parents, and even secondary and tertiary students, is such that when they get in their car they have a tendency to go into auto-pilot, leaving them free to focus on everything else that is happening in their lives when they should be thinking about their driving,” Mr Cheetham said.

“To improve their concentration and prevent avoidable crashes, drivers must use good judgement and not drive when their minds are highly-focussed on work or social issues. Getting safely from A to B must be the priority for drivers, from the time they turn on the ignition to the time they turn it off,” Mr Cheetham said.

Speed, fatigue and alcohol still factors

The 2008 AAMI Crash Index shows speed, fatigue and alcohol were still major factors in car crashes nationally.

“One in six Australian drivers (17 per cent) attributed previous crashes to speed, followed by fatigue (11 per cent) and alcohol (nine per cent),” Mr Hughes said. “While a slight improvement on last year when 20 per cent of crashes were blamed on speed and 13 per cent on fatigue, the same cannot be said of drink-driving; drivers attributing crashes to drinking is unchanged.”

More worrying is the number of drivers who persist in behaviour that is not only illegal, but dangerous as well.

“While one in 10 drivers nationally (eight per cent) said they exceeded the speed limit ‘most of the time’, an astonishing one-third (34 per cent) admit driving when they knew they were over .05, and 15 per cent have taken a different route home after drinking to avoid being breathalysed.

“This sort of willingness to get behind the wheel, when all the signs say you shouldn’t, suggests some drivers are either ignorant of the law, or just plain stupid,” Mr Hughes said.

“It is little wonder then that of those drivers who have had their licence cancelled or suspended, almost half attribute it to speeding (44 per cent), and 40 per cent to drink driving.”

Inattention can be costly

“Paying attention while driving is as important on open roads and highways as it is when reversing and parking, especially considering one in six insurance claims in 2007 (18 per cent) resulted from drivers hitting stationary objects or parked cars,” Mr Hughes said.

On average, repairing damage to cars that collided with a stationary object, such as a pole, tree or fence, costs $1821. Front-to-rear collisions accounted for almost three in 10 crash-related insurance claims and cost, on average, $2704.

“This highlights the contribution of driver inattention to crashes, considering many front-to-rear collisions happen at low speeds, and could have been avoided had the driver been paying attention,” he said.

Crashes more common than not…

The 2008 AAMI Crash Index shows Australia is still a nation of car crashers, with eight in 10 drivers nationally (81 per cent) saying they have been involved in a car crash. This is supported by 2007 AAMI claims data showing insurance claims for crash damage is at a seven-year high. The national Claims Incidence Rate, which is the number of AAMI policyholders per 100 who had accidents in a one-year period, reached 15.2 in 2007, the highest since 2001.

“Most crash-related insurance claims are for repairing damage that was caused by drivers not paying attention. Front-to-rear collisions are by far the most common cause, accounting for three in 10 motor insurance claims (27 per cent), followed by a failure to give way (20 per cent).

“Even the simple act of reversing is problematic for some drivers, with 12 per cent of claims for reverse collision damage. Repairs to crash damage such as this could be avoided if drivers simply focussed on their driving,” Mr Hughes said.

…and cost more than just claims

The almost $500 million in crash-related insurance claims AAMI paid out in 2007 pales in significance against the overall cost of crashes and collisions to the community. The Australian Transportation Safety Bureau (ATSB) estimated the economic costs of road crashes in 2005 to be at least $18 billion. With more cars on the road now than ever, this figure has likely risen.

Costs to injured crash victims can be higher than for crashes where victims have died. A study by the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing showed more than 50,000 people were seriously injured in land transport accidents in 2005-2006. More than half of those resulted in hospital admissions for people aged less than 30 (52 per cent), and more than one-quarter for people aged 15-24. Car collisions with another vehicle or a stationary object, motorcycle or cyclist, were responsible for 0.5 per cent of all hospital stays and 7.1 per cent of all injury-related hospital stays.

The full 2008 AAMI Crash Index is available at

  1. The 2008 AAMI Crash Index is based on an independent telephone and internet survey of 2503 licensed drivers in all states and territories conducted by Sweeney Research.
  2. Australian Transportation Safety Bureau figures show an average annual drop in road fatalities of 1.7 per cent between 2001-06

4 replies on “Pay attention – It could save your life!”

I was talking about this to friends of mine the other day about how in Mexico, speed limits are optional – so is keeping in lanes, so is allowing anything more than 0.2 milliseconds worth of buffer between your can and the car in front yet their fatalities per 100,000 population figure is not all that much higher than Australia’s (around 12.5 for Mexico and around 9.5 for Australia in 2000 – one of the best for 2000 was Britain at 6.0 while one of the worst was South Korea at 21.8 deaths per 100,000 head of population).

Now I’m sure that there are likely to be statistical variations in how these figures are collected but what it shows to me is that, on a general level, in a country that has a significantly higher tolerance for disobeying road rules than Australia, you can still achieve pretty good road safety without enacting draconian laws.

The big difference between Mexico and here is that drivers over in Mexico pay significantly more attention when they are on the roads and people drive expecting the unexpected like people overtaking on blind crests etc. Here, people drive in their own little bubble with absolutely no regard for random unexpected events. As a result, when something unexpected does happen, people here are to slow to react and end up killing or maiming themselves and/or those around them.

And don’t get me started on the way road fatalities are reported in this country. If there’s no obvious explanation why someone crashed their car, then the fuzz just tick general boxes like “speed” or “fatigue” despite the fact that theses may well not have been the cause. A lot of this sort of stuff comes down to a gross perversion of statistics in my view and road safety is not the only area of public policy where it happens.

Nice anecdote Andrew.

I’m going to put my neck on the line and will publish my “Triple A” driving principles in the next day or so. Eek!

I’m pleased that finally an offical body is saying something about this, instead of yet another overly simplistic speed-kills message.

How many times do we see cars doing stupid things like wandering between lanes only to see the driver either on the phone or arguing with the kids in the back seat.

Absolutely! I know a few people who think they’re good, or at least, safe drivers, simply because they do not speed. The fact they don’t indicate, don’t use their lights appropriately and generally don’t pay attention to anything outside of their own car seems to have escaped them.

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