The High Cost of Road Trauma
In Australia, road users aged 17-24 represent 15% of the population and 1/3 of road deaths. In WA, 20% of drivers killed are under 20, despite being only 6% of all drivers.
The main contributors to serious road trauma are speeding, alcohol, fatigued driving and the non-use of restraints. As the driver controls these factors, most road deaths and serious injuries can be prevented.
Lack of driving experience is a factor in crashes involving young people, hence why the licensing system focuses on practical experience. New drivers spend more time driving under supervision and twice as long with P plate restrictions than previously. They also have to successfully complete a Hazard Perception Test.
Speeding increases crash risk and therefore risk of being seriously injured or killed. Speeding is driving faster than the limit and too fast to suit conditions.
Driving above the limit is illegal. If caught, you will be fined and may accumulate demerit points. If on a provisional licence, you could have your licence cancelled.
Under ‘Anti-Hoon’ legislation, people caught 45km/h or more above the limit can be charged with reckless driving, resulting in licence suspension or even cancellation. Their vehicles can be impounded/confiscated, if they are racing or doing ‘burnouts’.
Why is it more dangerous to drive fast?
It is more dangerous to drive fast because:
- injuries are more severe
- you are more likely to kill or be killed
- vehicle control is harder
- you have less time to react
- other drivers have less time to react to you
Always travel so you can anticipate and react safely to sudden dangerous situations.
Choosing what speed to travel
A speed limit is the maximum legal speed allowed in ideal conditions. Adjust speed to suit conditions and never speed. Limits are shown on signs or are default limits that apply to where you are (e.g. ‘built-up’ areas or the State’s maximum on other roads).
As a basic guide, you should drive slower when:
- The road is busy
If there are parked cars, people may open their doors or pull out suddenly. People may step out from between parked cars. If the traffic light ahead is green, it may change by the time you get there, you must be able to stop safely.
- Road conditions are poor
Be careful if there are potholes. Slow down when there is loose gravel or sand on the road, particularly at bends. If road works are being carried out, slow down and do not exceed speed limits displayed.
- Visibility is poor
Slow down if you cannot see clearly because of rain, fog, smoke, bad light, dazzling lights or the sun shining in your eyes.
- There are pedestrians and cyclists around
Pay attention when you see cyclists and pedestrians (especially near shopping centres or schools). Pedestrians may forget to look before they cross the road.
Give cyclists more space – don’t ‘squeeze’ them off the road.
Your speed contributes to how much time you have to react safely. The higher your speed, the less time you have to identify and react to hazards.
Alcohol and Drugs
Driving after drinking or taking drugs increases crash risk (it’s worse when the two are combined). Laws around this save lives. Every police vehicle can perform roadside drug and drink driving tests and the chance of being randomly breath or saliva tested is high.
Don’t risk your licence, life, or others by driving while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol.
IT IS AN OFFENCE TO DRIVE OR ATTEMPT TO DRIVE WHILE IMPAIRED BY DRUGS.
The effects of alcohol on driving
Alcohol is absorbed quickly and travels rapidly to all body parts. It affects your ability to make judgments and process information, and impairs your consciousness and vision.
Coffee or soft drink won’t sober you up – only time can.
If you drink and drive, you will find it difficult to:
- judge vehicle speed
- judge distance between cars
- concentrate on driving
- stay awake
- notice traffic control signals, pedestrians and other potential hazards
- keep your balance, especially as a pedestrian or motorcyclist/cyclist
Alcohol also gives you a false sense of confidence. You may take more risks than normal – but remember alcohol slows your reaction time to hazards.
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
BAC is a measure of alcohol in the body (alcohol weight in grams per 100mL of blood). BAC can be determined by analysing a blood, breath or urine sample.
BAC begins to rise when you begin drinking and can take up to 2 hours to reach peak concentration, especially if you have eaten a substantial meal at the same time. Even though you may not have had a drink for an hour or more, your BAC may still be rising.
What is the legal limit?
The BAC allowed depends on the vehicle type you are authorised to drive and the current status of your licence.
The following information sets out the various BAC limits and when they apply. Drink driving penalties apply for offences and may change from time to time.
0.00 BAC applies to the following:
- novice drivers
- taxi drivers*
- drivers of omnibuses*
- drivers of certain heavy vehicles*
- extraordinary licence holders
- recently disqualified drivers
- drivers of vehicles carrying dangerous goods*
- drivers of passenger vehicles with capacity of more than 12 adults*
*The zero BAC limit for certain drivers may not apply at all times.
0.02 BAC applies to provisional licence holders that are no longer Novice Drivers.
0.05 BAC applies to all other drivers.
How much alcohol takes you over the legal limit?
You must not drink any alcoholic drinks at all if you intend to drive
So you do not reach 0.02%, you should not drink alcohol when you intend to drive.
BAC levels vary between people based on:
- Your size and fitness level - If you are unfit or small, it may take you less than the standard number of drinks to exceed the legal limit.
- Your gender - Alcohol is soluble in water and men tend to have a higher proportion of water than women. Therefore, consuming the same amount of alcohol will usually cause a higher BAC in a woman than a man of a similar size.
- The amount of alcohol still in your blood from drinking the night before or earlier in the day - If you still have traces of alcohol in your blood, your BAC will be higher than normal after one standard drink.
- The amount of food in your stomach - Food slows the absorption of alcohol. If you have not eaten a substantial meal before drinking, your BAC may reach the legal limit more quickly than if you have had something substantial to eat.
What is a Standard Drink?
Any drink containing 10g of alcohol is a standard drink. One standard drink will raise an average person’s BAC by about 0.01%, depending upon the factors mentioned.
The Department of Health advises that to stay below 0.05% BAC:
- an average sized, healthy woman should have no more than 1 standard drink in the first hour and then no more than 1 standard drink per hour after that
- an average sized, healthy man should have no more than 2 standard drinks in the first hour, then no more than 1 standard drink per hour after that.
|Spirits (37-43% alc/vol)||= 1 Standard drink per 30mL|
|Wine (10-14% alc/vol)||= 1 Standard drink per 100mL (7.5 per bottle)|
|Pre-mixed drinks (5% alc/vol)||= 1.2 Standard drink per 300mL
= 1.5 Standard drink per 375mL
|Mid-strength beer (3-4% alc/vol)||= 0.8 Standard drink per 285mL
= 1 Standard drink per 375mL
|Full strength beer (4-6% alc/vol)||= 1.5 Standard drink per 375mL
= 1 Standard drink per 285mL
How long does alcohol stay in your body?
The body breaks down alcohol slowly. A healthy person will take about 1 hour to get rid of the alcohol from 1 standard drink. So, 4 standard drinks in an hour = about 4 hours to get it all out of your system.
No amount of coffee or soft drink will speed up the breakdown of alcohol in your body.
To ensure you stay below 0.05% BAC, limit your drinking to 1 standard drink per hour. The Department of Health recommends limiting your alcohol intake to 4 standard drinks a day if you are a man and 2 a day if you are a woman.
Always follow these 3 rules when drinking alcohol:
- limit yourself to 1 standard drink per hour
- drink plenty of water and other non-alcoholic drinks
- eat something substantial while drinking
Effect of alcohol and other drugs on driving
Many drugs and medicines can seriously affect your driving. Drugs such as sedatives or tranquillisers may impair concentration, make you drowsy, and slow your reaction time. Medications for the common cold or travel sickness can do the same. These side effects may last several hours. If you are taking any drugs, check with your doctor or chemist about the effect they may have on your driving.
Never combine alcohol and drugs as their effects vary and can be much stronger when used in combination. This can be very dangerous and even deadly.
Random roadside drug and alcohol testing
Drink/drug driving is a major contributor to road fatalities in WA. Be aware of the effects alcohol/drugs can have on alertness, vigilance and ability to react rapidly to unexpected hazards. Some drugs can increase the impairing effects of alcohol and fatigue.
Police can stop motorists and require them to take a random drug or alcohol test to detect the presence of prescribed/illicit drugs or alcohol. It is a serious offence to refuse a random breath test, or a request to give a saliva sample for drug testing.
What to do if you want to drink
Don’t drink and then drive. If you want to drink, plan ahead:
- arranging a lift with a sober friend
- arranging to stay the night
- hiring a minibus for a group
- appointing a skipper
- using public transport
- phoning someone to collect you
- taking a taxi
One way to avoid drinking too much is to alternate alcoholic drinks with water, non-alcoholic or low alcohol drinks. Don’t get involved in ‘shouts’ to buy rounds of drinks.
Don’t drive with a BAC over the limit. In doing so, you increase the risk that you will:
- lose your life
- cause others to lose their lives
- injure yourself or others
- be charged by the police
- lose your licence
- be fined or imprisoned
- have your vehicle confiscated
- damage property
If you crash while over the BAC level or drug-impaired, insurance will not cover you.
How do seat belts work in a crash?
There are two types of collision in any road crash:
- The car collision is the first. The car hits something and stops. The part that first impacts stops immediately. Often, the engine bay or boot absorbs some impact. The driver/passenger section can remain comparatively undamaged.
- The human collision is the second and more dangerous collision. Occupants are thrown about inside the car, or even out of the car.
If not restrained by a seat belt, you will keep moving when the car suddenly stops. If travelling at 100km/h on impact, you will continue at that speed after the collision.
If not wearing a seat belt, you will hit other people or some part of the car. Higher speeds mean greater force at which you will be thrown inside or out of the car.
The human collision injures and kills people. Seat belts help prevent injury and death.
Why you should wear a seat belt
Seat belts prevent the human collision.
Wearing a seat belt protects against being thrown from the vehicle or thrown around in the driver/passenger compartment – hitting parts of the car or other occupants.
Good drivers have crashes too.
All drivers have some crash risk. People who drink, drive fast, are tired, discourteous or inexperienced, have a higher crash risk. You never know when you may encounter these drivers – so always wear your seat belt.
People are rarely trapped because of seat belts.
Statistics show that people are rarely trapped if they wear a seat belt and their car
catches fire or falls into water. Wearing a seat belt does increase your chances of being alive and conscious so you can escape fire or water after a crash.
Seat belts save us money.
As we all pay the medical, legal, invalid pensions, and higher insurance costs in one way or another, preventing injuries by wearing a seat belt is in everyone’s best interest.
Who does not have to wear a seat belt?
Legally, you do not have to wear a seat belt if you are:
- a driver travelling in reverse
- in possession of a current exempting medical certificate
- doing work which requires getting in and out frequently, and not travelling faster than 25km/h
- under the age of 12 months and in a taxi, if no suitable child restraint is available
- a taxi driver carrying passengers after dark
Who must wear a seat belt?
The driver and each passenger must be restrained and in a seated position. Seat belts are designed for 1 person. ‘Doubling up’ (2 people using 1 belt) is illegal and unsafe.
Seat belts work just as well in the back seat.
You must wear a seat belt in the back seat. If you don’t you may hit some part of the vehicle or other people in a crash.
Seat belts must be worn on short, as well as long trips.
Many crashes occur close to the driver’s home – always wear your seat belt.
Seat belts must be worn by pregnant women.
Unless they have a current medical certificate exempting them. A seat belt worn correctly across the hips (below the baby) is unlikely to affect an unborn child. There is a higher risk to a baby if the mother is not wearing a seat belt.
Child car restraint law - children need protection too.
Unrestrained children and babies can be injured during hard braking. An adult’s lap is not safe in a crash. Even when small, an adult can’t hold onto the child in a crash.
WA introduced national child restraint laws to keep children safe in vehicles. Fines and traffic penalties apply to the driver if children are not restrained in accordance with laws.
Child restraint laws apply to passengers under 7 who must wear a suitable restraint. These laws also specify where children are permitted to sit in a vehicle.
- In a vehicle with 2 or more rows, children under 4 must sit in the rear seats.
- Children aged 4-7 are not permitted in the front seats unless all rear seats are taken by children less than 7.
- Children aged 7 and over can sit in any seating position if suitably restrained.
|Age and requirement||Child restraint|
|0 - 6 months
From birth until 6 months of age you are required to use a rearward-facing child restraint, and seat the child in the rear seats at all times.
|6 months - 4 years
Must use either a rearward facing child restraint or a forward-facing child restraint that has an inbuilt harness.
Children up to 4 must sit not sit in the front row of a vehicle that has 2 or more rows.
|4 - 6 years
Must be restrained in a forward-facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness or in a booster seat restrained by either a seatbelt or child harness.
These children are not permitted in the front seat unless all rear seats are occupied by children less than 7.
If a child occupies a front seat with a passenger airbag, move the seat as far back as possible while allowing correct restraint and seat belt fit. Children outside weight/size guidelines for existing restraints are able to use the restraint for the next age group. Before you purchase or install a restraint, ensure it complies with Australian Standards.
Never ride in the back of a utility, panel van or station wagon.
It is illegal to ride in the back of a ute or other ‘open load’ space. When in the open load space of a ute or in the back of a panel van or station wagon you face a greater risk of serious injury or death, particularly if you crash or fall out. It has been illegal to carry any passengers in the tray of utes or open load spaces in other vehicles, even if it has a roll-over protection device fitted, since 31 December 2005.
What if your passengers do not wear a seat belt?
Drivers are legally responsible for ensuring children up to 16 are suitably restrained. You are responsible for ensuring children under 7 are wearing a suitable restraint that is properly adjusted and securely fastened.
Only passengers sitting in a seat fitted with a seat belt or restraint suitably fastened can be carried in the vehicle. Exceptions apply for passengers aged 7 and over where the vehicle is not required to have seatbelts fitted. No additional unrestrained passengers are allowed and passengers cannot share the same seat or seatbelt.
What is the correct way to wear a seat belt?
A seat belt is legally required to be properly adjusted and securely fastened - tight but comfortable. The buckle should be at your side and there should be no twists or knots in the straps. Properly working retractable seat belts will self-adjust.
What should I do if my seat belt is in poor condition?
It is illegal and unsafe to use worn, frayed, faded or damaged seat belts - replace them.
Driver fatigue (driving when tired) is a major road safety hazard. Fatigue crashes tend to be severe as sleepy drivers don’t take evasive action (risk of serious injury is very high).
What is driver fatigue?
Fatigue is mental/physical tiredness that causes loss of alertness, reduced driving skill, poor judgement, drowsiness, slower reactions and may cause you to fall asleep.
Drowsy drivers can drift into ‘micro-sleeps’ (brief naps that lasts around 3-5 seconds). At 100km/h you can travel over 100m in that time, enough to run off the road.
The main causes of fatigue
Body Clock Factors
Your body runs on a ‘body clock’ (natural biological cycle of 24-26 hours) that programs you to sleep at night and to stay awake during the day. This is controlled partly by light and dark and partly by what you do. If you normally work from 9am to 5pm, some of the things that happen to you as a result of your body clock are:
- the morning light tells your body clock to wake you up
- during the morning your body clock keeps you alert
- after lunch, your body clock turns your alertness down for a couple of hours
- your body clock will make you most alert in the late afternoon and early evening
- evening darkness tells your body to turn alertness down to prepare for sleep
- after midnight your body will turn alertness right down so that you are ‘switched off’ between 2 and 6am (when your body functions are at their lowest level).
You will usually be at your best, most alert and safest when driving during the morning, late afternoon and early evening. You will usually be at your worst between 12 and 6am when the body clock turns your alertness down. This is a dangerous time for drivers.
Although there are fewer drivers on the road between 12 and 6am, statistics show they can be up to 20 times more likely to have a crash during those hours.
Enough sleep is the only way to prevent fatigue. 7.5 hours of sleep is recognised as an average/normal need. If you get much less, you will be fatigued. You will feel tired during the day and much worse at night when your body turns your alertness down.
Fatigued drivers are a danger to themselves and others. If you have not had any sleep for 17-18 hours, your ability to drive will be the same as if you had a BAC of 0.05%.
That way over the 0.00% BAC limit for a novice driver and doubles your crash risk.
Although you may like to go out until the early hours of the morning, be aware that driving while fatigued is a big risk and if you crash because you are not alert, you are likely to be held responsible.
Long working or study hours or physically tiring work can affect your driving. Shift workers need to take extra care as they are 6 times more likely to be involved in ‘fatigue-related’ road crashes than other workers.
Medical factors can prevent you from getting the periods of sleep you need to feel refreshed and alert. If you had enough sleep but still feel tired and drowsy consult your doctor. Look after yourself – healthier/fitter people sleep better and are more alert.
Don’t use stimulants to keep you awake - these just delay sleep. When they wear off there can be sudden onset of sleepiness, which is dangerous, especially when driving.
What are the warning signs of driver fatigue?
There are warning signs to indicate you are becoming too tired to drive safely:
- sore or heavy eyes
- lack of concentration
- your vehicle wandering
- slow reactions
- unintentional speed change
Be honest with yourself. If you experience these signs, stop and take a break.
Ways to reduce driver fatigue
Here are some tips to help you keep alert at the wheel:
- get plenty of sleep before long trips
- plan time for sleep, rest and food on long trips
- take regular breaks (at least every 2 hours) to walk and have a stretch
- get fresh air in your vehicle (smoke and stale air can contribute to drowsiness)
- learn to recognise the signs of sleepiness and pull over for a short break
Once fatigue sets in, all you can do is stop immediately and take a break/nap.
Under ‘Anti-Hoon’ legislation, reckless drivers/motorcyclists can have their vehicles impounded or confiscated. Driving like a hoon can get your vehicle arrested.
People caught racing or doing ‘burnouts’ can lose their vehicles for 48 hours. A second offence can result in licence suspension and up to 3 months of impoundment. A third can result in permanent licence disqualification and the vehicle being confiscated.
Drivers can only make/receive calls on mobile phones while driving if the phone is:
- secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle
- if not secured, can be operated without touch (voice activated)
It is illegal to use text/video message, email or similar communication while driving.
The GPS function of a phone may be used as long as the phone is secured in a mounting, and the driver does not need to touch it (including the keypad or screen).
Other Road Users
Keep a look out for pedestrians and be ready to stop. Places to look out for them are:
- at pedestrian crossings
- near schools and playgrounds
- near shopping centres
- between parked cars or behind buses
- near hotels, taverns or clubs (anywhere people have been drinking alcohol)
Drivers/riders must give way to pedestrians (including people in wheelchairs) who are:
- crossing at an intersection in front of your turning vehicle
- crossing at a pedestrian crossing (zebra) or children’s crossing
- crossing at a marked foot crossing (traffic light controlled crossing) when a light facing vehicles is flashing yellow or red
- crossing in front of you at a slip lane (a left turn lane with an island between that lane and lanes for other traffic).
- At children’s crossings, stop before the crossing when the attendant extends the flags. Do not move until the attendant withdraws the flags signalling you can go.
Parallel walk crossings
These are intersections controlled by traffic lights where pedestrians are permitted to walk on the green pedestrian signal, parallel to the flow of traffic. The lights for pedestrians turn green a few seconds before drivers are given their green light and turning vehicles must give way to pedestrians crossing.
Cyclists and motorcyclists
Cyclists and motorcyclists have the same equal rights as other vehicles. Share the road and give them room. Be courteous and take extra care around riders by:
- being careful not to cut riders off when you are turning left. DO NOT turn in front of cyclists or motorcyclists – wait for them to ride past
- taking extra care when overtaking riders because they are much more likely to be injured in a crash. Keep a safe distance (at least 1m clearance from the side of your vehicle) when overtaking. If it is not possible to overtake with a 1m gap, slow down and do not overtake until safe
- checking your blind spots for riders. You do not have perfect vision from within your vehicle. There are blind spots at the sides and rear. Check them by looking over your shoulder before you move left or right.
Cyclists may legally use the whole lane on roads with lane markings. They are allowed to ride side-by-side.
Being smaller than other vehicles, motorcycles are not easily seen. In addition to the road rules that apply to all road users, additional rules to help protect motorcyclists.
The risk of injury or death on a motorcycle is far greater than in a car. Motorcyclists and their passengers must wear an approved safety helmet or you will be fined and incur demerit points. In the interest of safety, a motorcyclist should also:
- Wear protective clothing.
To reduce the risk of sustaining severe injuries, always wear protective clothing that includes a jacket (bright colour recommended), long trousers, an approved safety helmet (light colour recommended) with fastened strap, eye protection, gloves, and sturdy footwear.
The minimum is closed shoes, long pants, a jacket, and a helmet.
You must wear appropriate protective clothing for your practical assessment.
Many lightweight items will protect you just as well as heavier clothing.
- Take extra care when you carry a passenger.
You may carry one passenger on your motorcycle if you have a pillion seat and separate footrests. The passenger must wear appropriate protective clothing (including an approved helmet), sit behind the rider, face forward and always have both feet on footrests (if they can’t reach footrests they can’t be carried).
Motorcycle passengers must be 8 or older (unless in a sidecar).
Passenger add weight making the motorcycle respond slower. Adjust your riding to allow for the extra weight.
Talking to your passenger should be minimised as it can distract you and increase your reaction time.
Ride to be seen by other road users
Smaller vehicles appear further away and seem slower than they actually are. Here are some ways to help other road users to notice you:
- turn on your headlights at all times to help oncoming traffic see you more easily
- be ready to use your horn when unsure a driver is aware of your presence
- flashing indicators or hand signals make you more visible - always use them
- be visible – stay within the line of sight of other drivers:
- do not ride in a driver’s blind spot. If they cannot see you, they may make a manoeuvre without making allowance for your motorcycle.
- if you wish to travel at the same speed as another vehicle, travel behind or in front of it to make sure you can be seen.
- at intersections, drivers may not see you. Do not assume that they have.
- always allow a ‘cushion of space’ on all sides of you:
- in front – do not follow too closely behind another vehicle
- behind – if another vehicle is following too closely, slow down and allow it to overtake
- to the side – when passing parked cars, allow plenty of room as a car door may open or a pedestrian may step out. When being overtaken, move to the left
- when turning, diverging or changing lanes, indicate/signal for sufficient time to warn others. Look over your shoulder and check your mirror to make sure there is no traffic behind you in your blind spots
- use your mirrors frequently to check the traffic situation behind you
- always look well ahead
- always practice correct braking techniques
It is a good habit (and important to develop the skill) to use both front and rear brakes every time you slow down or stop as you will need to do this in an emergency stop.
Apply both brakes gently but firmly. Squeeze the front brake and press down on the rear brake. Do not ‘grab’ at the front brake or jam your foot down on the rear brake as this can cause the brakes to lock, resulting in serious control problems.
Always reduce your speed before entering a bend as entering a turn too quickly means you may lose control of your motorcycle.
The Ten Rules to Safe Driving
Road safety experts believe everyone following these rules could reduce road trauma:
- Drive at a safe speed
- Don’t drink and drive
- Obey the road rules
- Concentrate at all times and be prepared
- Be patient, and when in doubt, don’t proceed
- Plan your moves well in advance
- Give correct signals
- Be alert particularly at intersections
- Know your vehicle
- Be polite and considerate toward other road users
Is your car in safe working order?
Before you drive, check that your car is safe. Some of the things to look at are:
Tyre tread should be at least 1.5mm deep (match head thickness) over all parts that come in contact with road. Smooth tyres can cause skidding and can be dangerous in wet conditions. Tyres should be inflated to manufacturer specifications (pressure should be check when tyres are cold). This is particularly important when driving long distances or carrying a full load.
Have your brakes checked regularly. Faulty brakes = longer stopping distance.
Ensure your steering assembly is in good condition. Faulty steering = wandering car.
Make sure that all vehicle lights are operating correctly. Faulty lights = other drivers may not be able to see you or may not understand your intentions.
Use your horn to warn others of danger – it is an offence to use it for other purposes.
Windscreen and windscreen wipers
A clean windscreen is easier to see through (especially when driving into the sun, at night or in the rain).
Replace faulty/damaged windscreen wipers as they prevent clear vision during rain.
You are required to have a mirror on your car and it is illegal to hang things from it. Even with mirrors, your car has areas you can’t see without looking over your shoulder. Vehicles (especially motorcycles and bicycles) can be completely hidden in blind spots.
Make sure that your interior and exterior rear view mirrors are correctly adjusted (when you are in the correct driving position, they should help you see what is on the road next to you and behind you). The following are tips for adjusting your mirrors.
INTERIOR REAR VIEW MIRROR – adjust the mirror so that you have a clear view of the road behind
EXTERIOR REAR VIEW MIRRORS – adjust the mirrors so that you can just see the tip of your door handle in the lower edge of the mirror (corner closet to the car).
To check that mirrors positioning is correct, let a vehicle pass you on the right. As it leaves your interior mirror, its front bumper should appear in your exterior mirror.
Continue reading the Drive Safe: A Handbook for WA Road Users Summary:
1. Safe Driving
Check out the other resources available to help you pass the Learner's Test WA and get your learner permit (L plates):