Our cars are safer than ever. So why does the road toll keep rising?

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It is a sad statistic that more than 1300 people died on Australian roads in 2016, compared to 1205 in 2015, and 1150 in 2014.

In terms of road safety, drivers have a lot to thank technology for. Our airbags are better than ever. Auto companies have introduced driverless vehicles. Cars are equipped with auto emergency braking as a standard feature. So how is it that our cars are becoming safer but the injury and death toll continues to rise?

As our cars improve so does other technology, which creates the potential for greater distraction. In 2012, the Fatal Four became the Fatal Five when distraction and inattention were added to the campaign. Distraction is now considered to be one of the biggest contributing factors to road crashes in Australia.

In this modern era of technology, we have smartphones, GPS navigation, Bluetooth sound systems and onboard DVD players. We live in a world where we are constantly connected to social media and are always contactable via a text or phone call. All of these devices are designed to make our lives easier, but the downside is that they take our attention away from the roads and the cars around us.

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“We live in a world where we are constantly connected to social media and are always contactable via a text or phone call. All of these devices are designed to make our lives easier, but the downside is that they take our attention away from the roads and the cars around us.”

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We all think that we are capable of multitasking but research suggests otherwise. For example, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association suggests that a texting driver takes their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds over a 6 second interval. If they are travelling at 60kilometres per hour, they are “driving blind” for 75 metres. The consequences of this could be veering off the road, failing to notice a change in traffic conditions, or missing an important road sign.

No doubt modern cars are safer than ever and have better technology to offset our chances of injury. However, at this stage technology and engineering cannot completely defy the laws of physics. Until driverless vehicles are an everyday reality, perhaps it’s best to put the smartphone down.

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