The Australian Road Safety Foundation (ARSF) has revealed drivers in regional NSW are taking more risks behind the wheel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ahead of Fatality Free Friday on May 29, the foundation has released research that shows one in four drivers in regional NSW have admitted to taking increased road risks since the lockdown laws were implemented.
This is likely driven by the fact that two thirds of the region's drivers believe the roads are safer under current conditions.
ARSF founder and chief executive, Russell White, said there was never an excuse to be taking risks on the road.
"Sadly, with fewer cars on the roads during coronavirus, we're seeing an increase in bad driver behaviour, which is unacceptable," Mr White said.
"Road trauma at any time is tragic, but it's also largely preventable. While our incredible frontline medical and emergency services are already working harder than ever, is that text message or few extra minutes worth adding extra pressure on these resources?
"For every road death, another 35 Australians are hospitalised. Don't let a split second decision change your or someone else's life forever."
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While it was expected that the road toll would reflect the minimal vehicles on the road, the national year-to-date road toll had only declined by 12.5 per cent compared to the same period last year.
The research found speeding is the most common rule broken, with two thirds of the region's drivers admitting to being heavy-footed. During lockdown conditions, this has increased by 15 per cent.
Mobile phone use behind the wheel or driving after a few drinks are also common offences.
It was also revealed just seven per cent of the region's drivers thought about the safety of other road users when driving.
More than two thirds of regional NSW drivers admit to breaking a road law, with the most common excuses being a lack of attention, brief lapse in judgement or believing it is 'safe to do so'.
Distractions are another common safety issue. Two thirds of the drivers admitted to eating while driving, one quarter admitted to using their mobile phone and one fifth admitted to looking at a GPS or music for more than two seconds instead of focusing on the road.
Not even having a child in the car is a deterrent to taking risks on the road.
Almost a third of regional NSW drivers admit to speeding, using their mobile phone or driving distracted while a child is in the car.
This behaviour climbs with an adult passenger, with 52 per cent taking risks behind the wheel.
It increases again to 70 per cent when driving solo, despite the risk to themselves and other road users.
ARSF has called on all motorists to put road safety first and demonstrate their commitment to reducing the road toll by taking the Fatality Free Friday pledge online.
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