Stay focused and secure on the roads this Easter

Brake is urging drivers to keep road safety front of mind if they're travelling this Easter weekend, with a particular focus on distractions and seat belts.

So far this year 100 people have been killed on our roads, up from 86 this time last year. Brake is calling on everyone to always wear their seat belt, and is urging drivers to commit to never using a mobile phone at the wheel or to do anything else which diverts your attention from driving, to save lives and prevent families from experiencing the devastating consequences of crashes.

Driver distraction is a factor in 11% of crashes in NZ. In 2016, these crashes resulted in 22 deaths and 210 serious injuries [1]. Research suggests that the number of crashes involving diverted attention may be under-reported in police crash systems, due to the difficulty in determining whether the driver was distracted before the crash, so that number could be much higher [2].

If you talk on the phone while driving - hands-free or hand-held - your risk of causing an injury or death is four times higher than without the distraction [3]. Use a phone to text, email or browse the internet and the risk is much higher still.

Using a three-point seat belt reduces the chance of dying or being seriously injured in a crash by 40-50% [4]. Drivers are responsible for making sure all passengers under the age of 15 are properly restrained, but they should also be ensuring all their passengers buckle up.

Caroline Perry, Brake's NZ Director says: "In the modern world, drivers are confronted with many distractions that prevent them from giving the road their full attention, risking devastating crashes and loss of life. Driving is the riskiest thing most of us do regularly. You're operating a potentially lethal machine in an unpredictable environment, so it requires full concentration.

"Putting on your seat belt is one of the simplest things you can do to reduce your risk of death or serious injury in the event of a crash, so it's essential you ensure you and your passengers are wearing them on every trip. So far 100 families have received the devastating news that a loved one has been killed on our roads. We want everyone to get to their destination safely this weekend, so plan your travel, make sure you and your vehicle are secure, take regular breaks, stay focused, and do everything you can to keep yourself and others safe on the roads."

Road Safety Week 2018 takes place 7-13 May and focuses on distractions and seat belts, with the theme Belt on, Phone off - Make it a habit. Organisations, schools, community groups and families are invited to take part. You can find out more and register for a free action pack at www.roadsafetyweek.org.nz.

Quick reference facts

  • Distraction reduces hazard perception and increases reaction times in a similar way to drink-driving, making drivers much more likely to cause deaths and injuries [5].
  • Texting drivers have 35% slower reaction times and poor lane control [6]. One large-scale study found texting drivers were 23 times more likely to crash than a driver paying full attention [7].
  • Using a three-point seat belt reduces your chances of dying in a crash by 40-50% [8].
  • Using a child restraint appropriate for your child's height and weight, and properly fitted, reduces the risk of death and serious injuries [9].

Advice to drivers

  • Put your phone off or on silent and out of sight and reach. If you do need to make or take calls, pull over in a safe place.
  • Brake is also urging friends, family, employers and colleagues to do their bit and make life easier for drivers by not calling them or continuing phone conversations while they're at the wheel.
  • Drivers should make sure any children are in appropriate child restraints. By law children must be in a child restraint until they are 7 years old, but Brake recommends that children stay in a child seat until they are 148cm tall. Adult seat belts are designed to give protection to people taller than that, so until they reach that height, children need a child seat to ensure they are protected.

Read Brake's advice on distractions.
Read Brake's advice on seat belts.

[1] Diverted attention factsheet, Ministry of Transport, 2017
[2] Reviewing how distraction involvement is coded in the New Zealand crash analysis system, Gordon, C., 2009
[3] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005
[4] The handbook of road safety measures, Elvik R, Vaa T eds, Elsevier, 2004
[5] The impact of driver inattention on near-crash/crash risk, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006
[6] The effect of text messaging on driver behaviour: a simulator study, Transport Research Laboratory, 2008
[7] Driver Distraction in Commercial Motor Vehicle Operations, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2009
[8] The handbook of road safety measures, Elvik R, Vaa T eds, Elsevier, 2004
[9] The Handbook of Road Safety Measures, 2009

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