Road safety week: Have Aussie drivers ‘forgotten how to drive’ post-pandemic?

Have you noticed the roads have been a little busier – or more dangerous – since the pandemic lockdowns passed? Maybe people aren’t as friendly when it’s time to merge lanes, or you’re slamming on the brakes to avoid crashes because of someone else’s terrible driving?

With National Road Safety Week only a couple of weeks behind us, the findings of a recent survey suggest that road safety may need more than a week in the limelight.

Road safety survey 2021

According to a survey conducted by Ford, more than half of the 1,000 respondents said they felt that road safety has taken a hit since the pandemic started in March 2020. And it’s not because of road works or new rules, either. The recent findings show that Aussies believe it’s drivers who are at fault: that we’re seeing drivers taking more risks, exercising less caution, and generally driving more erratically. 

Around one fifth of respondents also believe the volume of traffic on main roads has gone up since pre-Covid levels. The data backs up this belief, too. A record 92,300 new vehicles were sold during April 2021 – beating the previous record month by more than 5,000 sales – and RACV data shows that traffic levels on arterial roads like Hoddle street are definitely above what they were pre-Covid.

Road safety survey - Melbourne arterial roads

So, why are there more cars on the roads? Speaking to WhichCar, an RACV spokesperson said that while inner-city arterials are overflowing with traffic that spills into the suburbs, Melbourne’s train network remains well below capacity. It is possible that commuters are still reluctant to travel via public transport until the threat of Covid has decreased. 

As for the decline in safe driving behaviour, Ford’s Driver Education Lead, James Stewart, told WhichCar that drivers likely lost confidence in the long lockdown months, particularly in cities where restrictions were tightest. The survey results back this up, with over 18% of Victorian respondents saying they feel nervous on the roads because of other drivers’ behaviour. 

The survey also suggests that where you’re driving plays a big role in how busy and safe you’ll find the roads. Comparing the states, drivers in the ACT are the most likely to break road rules, with almost 20% of the state’s respondents believing it’s ok to drive 5km over the limit and admitting they’re rusty on the rules.

 

With distracted driving a key area of enforcement in the last year, these findings may point to the need for a renewed focus on road safety education for drivers.