‘Tis The Season ……. Not To Be A Road Statistic.
In 2015, the Australian and New Zealand road tolls were 1209 and 319 respectively. These were the highest recorded in three years, bucking a downward trend that had existed for more than a decade. Based on current numbers, the prediction is that Australia will finish the year at around 1270 and New Zealand at 335. Similar trends exist in other parts of the western world.
Why is this happening now?
A naturalistic driving study (these types of studies measure real-life driving using in-car video cameras, eye trackers and sensors) found that inattention was a factor in 78% of all crashes and near misses. This included in-vehicle use of mobile devices, glancing away from the road, fatigue and other non-driving related eye glances.
Could it be that our modern lifestyle is helping us be more inattentive?
During the last few decades, the road toll in western societies has come down year on year. The two main reasons for this are:
The improved safety aspects of the roads. This includes the building of dual carriageways, crash barriers and clear line-of-sight intersections (abolishing blind corners).
The improved in-built safety features of vehicles. This includes incorporating ABS, air bags and proximity technology that warns us or acts on our behalf.
What we haven’t done much about is to improve the skills of the driver. More interestingly, we haven't considered the impact of improving the roads and vehicles on the driver's ability to remain attentive.
There is a saying immortalized by Jane Austen in the novel Emma that explains this:
“The more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves”
Maybe, we have progressively conditioned people to do less for themselves.
These days, technology does a lot of our thinking for us. Being fed so much information re-wires our brain to expect to be made aware of things, such as when someone is in the lane next to us. The result is that we condition ourselves