Risk in general life

Driving a car is one of the riskiest things that people do on an everyday basis. The risk of being killed in a car is greater than being killed:

  • By a shark or snake
  • In a plane crash
  • By exposure to fire or smoke
  • Through being assaulted
  • By drowning

Understanding and managing your driving risk

Some risks are out of our control but others can be managed. Knowing the risks of driving can help to reduce your risk of crash. Alternate transport can reduce crash risk. Buses and trains have a crash risk 5 times lower (0.20 fatality risk relative to car). However, cars are preferred as they are faster and more convenient.

Driver crash risk by age, experience and gender

First 6 months of red Ps is the most dangerous period. You survived this - well done!

Statistically, male drivers are at greater risk than female drivers.

DQH - Occupant Fatalities by Gender
This is because men:

  • Drive up to twice the kilometres in a year as women
  • Are often more willing to take risks when they drive

Summary: Understanding risk

  • Driving is one of the riskiest things people do everyday
  • Males at greater risk as they drive more and take more risks
  • Younger, less experienced drivers at greater risk than older more experienced drivers

The consequences of road crashes

People don’t think about the risk while driving and it’s unlikely they consider the consequences of a crash for them, their family, friends or community. Crashes cost the community a lot of money. On average:

  • Fatal crashes cost $5.8 million
  • Serious injury crashes (involving hospital) cost $471,000
  • Minor injury crashes cost $82,000
  • Property damage only crashes cost $8,000

Cost breakdown:

Rank Cost (for you and others) Allocation
1 Long-term care 24%
2 Loss of quality of life 21%
3 Labour in the workplace 19%
4 Labour in the household 18%
5 Legal 10%
6 Medical/ambulance and rehab 4%
7 Workplace disruption 4%
8 Funeral, coroner, and correctional 1%

 

A lot of young people are more worried about permanent disability/disfigurement than death.

For all casualty crashes (those that involve injury), 1 in 50 is a fatality.

Summary: Consequences of road crashes

  • Crashes cost a lot of money
  • Most of the cost goes to the long term care of those injured (24%)
  • Second most is for loss of quality of life (21%)
  • Most crash casualties don’t die (only 1 in 50) but many live with the consequences for the rest of their lives

Risk management – Who you are as a driver and a person

You determine a lot of your own risk as some driving risk results from who you are, what you think and how you look at the world. Risky behaviour increases crash risk. External sources also contribute to overall risk.

Confidence and overconfidence

Most people have an amount of confidence in their abilities. Confidence can work against you as a driver. The most confident drivers are often the least experienced, meaning they are likely overconfident and overestimate their ability.

In the first five years of driving, overconfidence can be a factor in many crashes as negative outcomes are underestimated. Overconfidence is boosted when you speed and don’t get caught as you feel you are a better driver than other people.

You think it won’t happen to you as only 1 in 140 licence holders are involved in a casualty crash each year. However, the risk of being caught for traffic violations is 1000 times greater than being killed in a crash. So you are likely to get booked, pay heavy fines, incur demerit points or lose your licence if you drive unsafely.

How good a driver do you think you are?

Male drivers tend to rate themselves as better than other drivers of the same age and experience. This feeds into overconfidence and sees men less than 25 years old over-represented in crash statistics.

Female drivers are more likely to consider their skill equal to or less than others. This contributes to reduced overconfidence and reduced crash involvement.

Summary: Risk management

  • Confidence is ok but overconfidence can be dangerous as it makes people underestimate negative outcomes (crash, injury, death)
  • Male drivers are more likely to rate themselves better than others feeding into overconfidence and increased crash risk
  • Risk of getting booked for traffic offence 1000 times more likely than being killed in a crash

Causes of crashes and acceptance of mistakes

People don’t like to admit they were wrong or made mistakes including when involved in crashes and making insurance claims.

  • External attribution: assigning blame outside of yourself
  • Internal attribution: assigning blame to yourself

Drivers tend to attribute externally, blaming the other driver, the road, or the weather for a crash but take little responsibility themselves. A far healthier situation is being able to honestly assess the contributors and realise what’s your fault and what’s not. This will make you a safer driver.

Drivers are people and people make mistakes

Most crashes are due to human error alone. If you add all the sections with human involvement together, it’s more than 90% of crashes.

Rank Risk/s Allocation
1 Human factors alone 57%
2 Human and environmental factors 27%
3 Vehicle and human factors 6%
4 All three factors 3%
5 Environmental factors alone 3%
6 Vehicle factors alone 2%
7 Vehicle and environmental factors 1%


Estimates are that drivers make a mistake that:

  • Could lead to a crash about every             3 kms
  • Leads to a near crash about every             800 kms
  • Does lead to a crash about every             980,000 kms

Acknowledging that you can and will make mistakes allows you to minimise your risk as a driver, protecting yourself and others.

Summary: Causes of crashes and acceptance of mistakes

  • Many drivers involved in crashes don’t want to admit that they might have done the wrong thing
  • External attribution = assigning blame outside of yourself
  • Internal attribution = assigning blame to yourself
  • The best situation is accepting the things that are down to you

Motivation and driving behaviour

Motivation affects how you drive. You are more likely to speed and take risks when you are running late (and try to justify this behaviour if caught) but you wouldn’t if time wasn’t an issue.

Young male drivers are more likely than women to let emotion affect their driving and are more likely to drive erratically or aggressively while letting off steam. Some people drive quickly and riskily for excitement or to relieve boredom. These people are more likely to get caught or crash and it’s ridiculous that such motivation threatens the safety of themselves and others.

Although safety is not the primary motivation for driving (it’s more likely convenient transport), it’s important to understand motivations and minimise risks based on them.

Summary: Motivation and driving

  • Motivation affects driving
  • Drivers who feel pressured by time are more likely to speed and take risks when they wouldn’t otherwise
  • Young male drivers are more likely than women to let emotion affect their driving
  • Driving dangerously for excitement will likely lead to being caught or crashing
  • You need to recognise that motivation affects how you drive

Risk taking and driving

Risk and sensation seeking

Some risks can be avoided while others only minimised. Some people have enough risk in their lives while others seek it out for excitement. To gauge your risk taking behaviour the RMS have a 19-question, true or false ‘Sensation Seeking Scale’ quiz. The higher the score the more risk you’re willing to take on. Men under 26 will likely score higher than older men and women.

Risk, sensation seeking and driving

Higher Sensation Seeking Scale scorers are linked to greater driving risk and are more likely to get caught or crash. High scorers are more likely to:

  • Drive aggressively
  • Exceed the speed limit
  • Not wear seat belts
  • Drink and drive
  • Believe they are less likely to get caught by police

Regardless of your Sensation Seeking Scale score, you can use this self-awareness to assess your behaviour and potentially channel a need for thrills into other activities. Everyday driving is risky enough without the need to add to it.

High risk driving behaviour

Common risky driving behaviours include speeding, tailgating (following cars too closely) and running red lights. These behaviours are illegal and greatly increase the chances of a crash. Everyone shares the road so risk taking is unacceptable as you endanger people’s lives who don’t know or accept that you’re increasing their chance of injury or death – get your excitement elsewhere in a controlled environment.

The law is tough on negligent driving that leads to injury or death:

  • Negligent driving could see you imprisoned for up to 18 months
  • Dangerous driving could see you imprisoned for 7-10 years

Aggressive driving behaviour

‘Road rage’ is retaliation by one driver for what they see as another driver wronging them in some way (e.g. cutting them off). It is unacceptable behaviour as assault and threatening behaviour are offences in NSW and the other driver’s alleged wrongdoing is not a defence. If you encounter road rage it should be reported to police.

Summary: Risk taking and driving

  • Young men are expected to have higher Sensation Seeking Scale scores than older men and then females
  • High Sensation Seeking Scale scorers are likely more willing to drive riskily, get caught and crash
  • Risk taking when driving is irresponsible and not OK
  • Road rage is illegal and adds unnecessary risk to driving
  • Negligent driving could see you imprisoned for up to 18 months
  • Dangerous driving could see you imprisoned for 7-10 years

Alcohol and driving

Alcohol contributes to 20% of fatal crashes and 5% of crashes causing injury. More than half of the drivers killed have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or more (that’s 3 times the legal limit of 0.05!). On your learners, red Ps and green Ps you have a limit of zero. This increases to 0.05 on your full licence.

What it takes to stay under 0.05 is different for everyone and depends on how much you drink, the time it takes to drink, as well as your gender, weight, general health, liver function, and how quickly your body breaks down alcohol.

Compared to their heavier counterparts, people who weigh less get high BACs faster as they have less blood to dilute the alcohol and have less capacity to break it down.

Approximate BAC after 1 hour
1 drink 2 drinks 3 drinks
Male 72kg 0.02 0.05 0.07
Female 72kg 0.03 0.07 0.10

 

As it is difficult to know if you’re under the limit, the best advice for all drivers is don’t drive if you’ve consumed alcohol. At 0.05 BAC the risk of crashing is double what it is at 0.00 BAC.

Alcohol reduces concentration, inhibits your ability to identify and respond to hazards, slows your reflexes, makes you more likely to speed and disobey traffic signs (if you notice them at all), and increases the risk of running off the road, particularly when dark and on curved roads.

Younger males are more likely to drink and drive and be involved in an alcohol-related crash. A lot of women also drink and drive, particularly those aged 40 and over.

Most alcohol-related crashes occur in ‘high alcohol hours’ – weeknights (particularly Thursday and Friday) and weekends (with the rest of the time called ‘low alcohol hours’). High alcohol hours are more risky for all road users as drivers are more likely to be affected by alcohol.

  • High alcohol hours = 57% of fatal crashes are alcohol-related
  • Low alcohol hours = 16% of fatal crashes are alcohol-related

Alcohol affected drivers are more likely to die if seriously injured as alcohol affects your body’s ability to cope and there are issues when blood is lost making medical treatment harder. This makes a 0.00 BAC the safest option.

Breath testing machines in pubs and clubs only give a general indication, if in doubt – don’t drive. Instead, use a designated driver or alternatives like taxies, buses and trains.

Summary: Alcohol and driving

  • Alcohol contributes to 20% of fatal crashes and 5% of crashes causing injury
  • More than half of the drivers killed have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15 or more (that’s 3 times the legal limit of 0.05!)
  • What it takes to stay under 0.05 is different for everyone
  • Light people get higher BACs quicker
  • Younger males are more likely to drink and drive
  • Alcohol reduces concentration, inhibits your ability to identify and respond to hazard, and slows your reflexes
  • At 0.05 BAC the risk of crashing is twice what it is at 0.00 BAC.
  • Safest BAC = zero
  • High alcohol hours = weeknights (particularly Thursday and Friday nights) and weekends. During these hours 57% of fatal crashes are alcohol-related
  • Alcohol affected drivers are more likely to crash and more likely to die if seriously injured

Other drugs and driving

Your ability to drive safely can be affected by illegal, over-the-counter, and some prescription drugs (pharmacy or supermarket) including:

  • Some pain killers
  • Medicines for blood pressure, nausea, allergies, inflammations and fungal infections
  • Tranquilisers, sedatives and sleeping pills
  • Some diet pills and cold and flu medicines

Legal drugs should have warning labels if they affect your driving but if in doubt ask a doctor or pharmacist. If you need to drive, you should not stop taking a medication with side effects but you can ask a doctor or pharmacist about potential alternatives that won’t impact on safe driving. Drugs can interact with each other in a way that may affect driving so check labels and ask if unsure.

Illegal drugs don’t have labels so you won’t know about the dangerous side effects or potential interaction until they’re happening. If police think you’re drug affected you can be arrested to provide urine and blood samples that will be tested. If you refuse to give samples you face the same penalties as high rage drink drivers including fines, loss of licence and imprisonment.

Basically:

  • Avoid illegal drugs
  • Don’t mix drugs
  • Check labels and ask professionals

Summary: Other drugs and driving

  • Drugs can affect your ability to drive
  • Check the labels on medications and legal drugs for warnings
  • Also check how the drugs you’re taking interact with each other
  • Ask a professional if in doubt
  • Avoid illegal drugs
  • Penalties for driving under the influence of drugs include fines, loss of licence and imprisonment

Fatigue and driving

Fatigue is the experience of being sleepy, tired or exhausted and contributes to 18% of fatal crashes. Fatigue comes from driving long distances, working long hours, partying hard and not getting enough sleep generally.

Effects and signs of fatigue

No one is immune to fatigue and it impairs your judgment and reduces your ability to assess your own tiredness. Warning signs include:

  • Loss of concentration
  • Drowsiness
  • Yawning
  • Slow reactions
  • Sore or tired eyes
  • Boredom
  • Missing road signs
  • Feeling irritable and restless
  • Having difficulty staying in the lane
  • Making fewer and larger steering corrections
  • Unintentionally falling asleep and suddenly waking up (microsleeps) perhaps not knowing you’ve been asleep or even closing your eyes

Fatigue and crashes

Fatigue crashes are 75% on country/rural roads and 25% urban/metropolitan. High-risk times for fatigue crashes are 4am - 8am and 12 noon - 2pm (particularly on weekends) which lines up with when the body is naturally sleepy. Driving sleep deprived at night and during these times can be fatal. Fatigue crash risk increases with fatigue (or hours of being awake).

Fatigue crashes involve male drivers 76% of the time as men drive more than women, are more likely to be employed in an occupation that requires driving, and are more likely to drive when couples or groups travel by road.

Fatigue and sleep debt

A certain amount of sleep is required daily (on average 8 hours). If you sleep less than required (e.g. 6 hours) you accumulate a ‘sleep debt’ equal to the hours missed (2 hours). The larger the sleep debt, the larger the tendency to fall asleep. Getting more sleep is the only way to reduce a sleep debt.

Reducing the risk of fatigue relate crashes

Getting plenty of sleep is the only way to avoid fatigue – not fresh air, not coffee and not loud music. To reduce your risk:

  • Avoid sleep debt through plenty of sleep
  • Get a good night’s sleep before a long trip
  • Avoid driving when you would usually be asleep
  • Avoid long drives after work
  • Stop, revive, survive with a 15 minute break every 2 hours
  • Share driving
  • Pull over if you recognise the warning signs
  • Check medications for warnings and avoid alcohol
  • Don’t let pride stop you from sharing or taking a break

Summary: Fatigue and driving

  • Fatigue is the experience of being sleepy, tired or exhausted and contributes to 18% of fatal crashes
  • Fatigue crash risk increases with fatigue (or hours of being awake)
  • High-risk times for fatigue crashes are 4am - 8am and 12 noon - 2pm (particularly on weekends)
  • Fatigue crashes involve male drivers 76% of the time
  • Getting plenty of sleep is the only way to avoid fatigue – not fresh air, not coffee and not loud music

Driving distractions and crash risk

Distractions from inside or outside the vehicle contribute to 6% of all crashes as they divide your attention and increase the likelihood of errors.

Sources of distractions that lead to crashes

Distraction Allocation
Inside vehicle 36%
Outside vehicle 30%
Unknown 34%

 

Rank Inside vehicle distraction Rough allocation
1 Adjusting radio/CD/stereo 12.0%
2 Other occupant 11.5%
3 Moving object 4.5%
4 Other device / object 2.5%
5 Adjusting climate control 2.0%
6 Eating or drinking 1.5%
7 Smoking related 1.0%

 

Two biggest risks are adjusting the sound system and other passengers.

Passengers and crash risk

Young drivers (particularly young men) have higher crash risk when travelling with passenger of a similar age as they can distract the driver or may encourage risky behaviour. The opposite occurs if a young male is travelling with their girlfriend or an older female (like their mum).

Driving to distraction

Distractions are most risky during complicated actions like selecting a safe gap in heavy traffic. You should avoid or minimise distractions, particularly during complex situations.

Reducing distractions means reducing crash risk

You can do simple things to reduce distractions from inside your vehicle:

  • Turning off sound system (particularly in new or difficult situations)
  • Not adjusting the sound system
  • No mobile phone use
  • Securing loose objects in the boot
  • Asking passengers to be quiet

Summary: Driving distractions and crash risk

  • 6% of all crashes involve distraction
  • Distractions inside vehicle = 36%
  • Distractions outside vehicle = 30%
  • Risk from distraction is greatest during complex traffic situations
  • You can’t control outside distractions so you should reduce risk by limiting inside distractions

Managing risk in the driving environment

Being able to adapt to driving conditions is important as human and environmental factors contribute to 27% of crash causes.

Rank Risk/s Allocation
1 Human factors alone 57%
2 Human and environmental factors 27%
3 Vehicle and human factors 6%
4 All three factors 3%
5 Environmental factors alone 3%
6 Vehicle factors alone 2%
7 Vehicle and environmental factors 1%

 

Environmental factors alone rarely cause a crash (3%), so most crashes are a lack of adjustment from the driver. These environmental factors include night driving, rain, snow, ice and floods.

Night driving

People more likely to speed at night as visual cues to speed are masked and traffic is lighter. Drivers are more likely to be alcohol-affected at night. Night driving is generally recreational rather than occupational so people are likely to be carrying passengers (increased distraction) and be in new traffic situations. All of these things add to the risk of night driving.

Coping with adverse driving conditions

You can’t control environmental hazards but you can manage your speed and space cushion to give yourself more time to detect and react to hazards. You can also use low beam headlights during the day to make it easier to be seen, reducing your risk.

Summary: Managing risk in the driving environment

  • Combined human and environmental factors cause 27% of crashes
  • Environmental factors alone only cause 3% of crashes
  • Drivers more likely to speed and be alcohol-affected at night
  • You can control your speed and space cushion to reduce risk
  • Reduce risk using low beam headlights during the day to ensure you are seen

Expectancies and the unexpected: Revision

People rely on expectations to predict road user behaviour when they drive. Drivers with more experience are better at predicting behaviour and therefore cope better when unexpected hazards arise. Road user won’t follow the rules all the time so hazard perception skills are vital to safe driving.

Coping with the unexpected

  • The following can help to reduce the risk of an unexpected hazard causing issue:
  • Scan further ahead
  • Look for indicators and brake lights on other cars
  • Look for head movements and eye contact to gauge if someone is paying attention or aware of your presence
  • Be vigilant in checking for hidden road users and check blind spots
  • Control speed and space cushion to provide time to detect and react
  • Use caution in new of changed traffic conditions
  • Use headlights during the day to make it easier to be seen
  • Slow down

Summary: Expectancies and the unexpected

  • Drivers use expectations to predict behaviour
  • Road users make mistakes and will do unexpected things
  • Scan, control speed and give yourself space to ensure you are able to deal with unexpected behaviour
  • Drive with your headlights on so you are seen

Looking out for yourself and others

You have a responsibility for the safety of yourself and other road users

Vulnerable road users

Vulnerable road users (little protection during a collision) = pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Each year 5,500 vulnerable road users are injured or killed.

Pedestrians

Pedestrians can behave unexpectedly. They are harder to see and may be alcohol-affected. Children are at risk as they do not think like adults. Older people are also particularly vulnerable as although they have experience and sense, they are not as agile or alert. This has led to people over 60 being over-represented in pedestrian crash statistics. When approaching or passing pedestrians slow down and give them space.

Cyclists

Cyclists travel on roads, footpaths, and bike paths/lanes (though they often move between them), cycle without lights at night making them harder to see and may ride against traffic and through red lights making them unpredictable. Only children under 12 and supervising adults can ride on footpaths. But kids ride on the road and adults on the footpath, so you need to keep your eyes open, give cyclists space and slow down when necessary. Cyclists are slow at intersections and when making turns.

Motorcyclists

Motorcycles (only 3% of vehicles) are small, can hide behind other vehicles, accelerate quickly and swerve lane-to-lane making them hard to see and unpredictable. They can be hidden in blind spots making head checks vital. Most common collisions are a turning vehicle hitting a motorcycle and a vehicle going straight hitting a turning motorcycle, with the vehicle not giving way in both situations. Motorcyclists are 3 times more likely to be killed than drivers.

Heavy vehicles

Trucks and buses are easy to see, slower than other vehicles and need more space to make turns. Though easy to see, it is most often car drivers who cause collisions by cutting them off and hitting them head on while overtaking. Heavy vehicle collisions often involve injury and death as the risk of being killed in a truck collision is 3 times higher than a collision with another car.

Reducing risk around trucks and buses

  • To reduce crash risk around heavy vehicles:
  • Don’t sit in their blind spots
  • Truck drivers rely on their mirrors, they can’t see you if you can’t see the mirrors
  • Give yourself space so you can see traffic around them
  • Don’t compete with them for road – you’ll lose
  • Give them space when they’re turning or braking
  • Remember they take longer to overtake

Summary: Looking out for yourself and others

  • Vulnerable road users = pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists (they have little protection during a collision)
  • People under 16 and over 60 most risky as pedestrians
  • Check your blind spots for motorcyclists
  • Motorcyclists are 3 times more likely to be killed than drivers
  • Driver often claims not to have seen the motorcyclist, so watch out
  • Risk of being killed in a truck collision is 3 times higher than a collision with another car
  • Don’t compete with them for road – you’ll lose
  • Give them space when they’re turning or braking

 

Continue reading the Driver Qualification Handbook Summary:

1. Background Information

2. Understanding and Managing Risk

3. Hazard Perception


Check out the other resources available to help you pass the Driver Qualification Test and get your full (unrestricted) licence:

Share this page with your friends so they can pass their next NSW driving test:
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone