Drivers risk it all on rural roads

Warning: A new survey has delivered some disturbing facts about drivers who travel on South Australia's rural roads.
Warning: A new survey has delivered some disturbing facts about drivers who travel on South Australia's rural roads.

August is Rural Road Safety Month, and as the South Australia road death toll continues to rise new research shows there is still a long way to go to deter risky driver behaviour on regional roads.

An Australian Road Safety Foundation (ARSF) study has highlighted some disturbing facts about rural drivers with 50 per cent of the people admitting to speeding, using mobile phones or having other distractions while there were children in the vehicle.

ARSF chief executive Russell White said drivers needed to play their role in reducing the rural road toll.

"The research has told us that drivers are taking risks on rural roads because they're either less likely to get caught or perceive there to be fewer dangers," Mr White said.

"We will continue to see a significant and unnecessary loss of life on regional roads until we make a collective effort to shift this mentality so that safety is front of mind for all road users."

As of Monday, August 12, the road death toll in South Australia had reached 71, which is 28 more people, or 60 per cent higher than at the same time last year.

Of the 71 fatalities, 46 of those were in regional areas, with the Murray Mallee recording the state's highest number with 13, followed by the Limestone Coast on 10.

The Hills Fleurieu has recorded seven deaths with Barossa and Eyre Western on five, Yorke Mid North with four and Far North with two.

So far in 2019 serious injuries and collision casualties in the metropolitan area is sitting at 65.5 per cent of total reports, yet when it comes to fatalities the numbers swap with 65pc of deaths recorded in regional areas.

Along with police and ambulance officers, volunteer emergency services personnel attend road crashes and can often be the first responders.

Country Fire Service spokesman Brett Williamson said volunteers attended a variety of incidents at all times of the day and in all conditions.

"The accident and road toll rates in South Australia have risen this year compared to last, and for our volunteers this means they are responding to an increased amount of traumatic scenes," Mr Williamson said.

"In the 2018-19 financial year, our volunteers responded to almost 25,000 vehicle related incidents across the state."

He said the CFS attempts to limit the exposure of trauma on volunteers with the organisation also using a 24-hour counselling service to support them, especially because they often attend incidents involving acquaintances, friends and even family.

"Our CFS volunteers are often the first on scene at road accidents and will comfort and support those inside wreckages while we work to safely free them from vehicles," he said.

"Our volunteers often turn-out to accidents involving people from their local communities."

ARSF study results about South Australian drivers included:

  • 1 in 3 South Australians admit they are more likely to break a road rule when driving on rural roads
  • Drivers are 1.5 times more likely to speed on rural roads than on suburban streets
  • 52pc of drivers admit they were more likely to break rules on rural roads because of fewer perceived risks from other vehicles
  • One third of drivers believe rural road rules should be relaxed to allow for higher speed limits, higher blood alcohol limits and mobile phone usage
  • However, 1 in 3 road users also believe a shift in driver attitudes and behaviours would have the biggest impact on the rural road toll
  • 40 pc of rural drivers admit to speeding, using their mobile phone or driving distracted while their own kids are in the car
  • Regional residents were more likely to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drive while fatigued, not wear a seatbelt and speed
This story Risk it all on rural roads first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.