Victorians are continuing to ignore key road safety messaging despite a tragic year on state roads, survey results reveal.
As authorities continue to grapple with the spike in the number of people who have died on Victorian roads this year, results from a recent Transport Accident Commission survey reveal that more than a third admitted to driving while drowsy or using a mobile phone behind the wheel.
The Road Safety Monitor 2018 involved a survey of 1681 road users, with 37 per cent reporting they had driven while drowsy in the past three months.
The survey found driving while drowsy to be higher in younger drivers, with more than half of those between the age of 18 and 25 admitting it, though the number decreased with age.
According to the TAC, fatigue is a major cause of crashes on Victorian roads and results in some 50 deaths and approximately 300 serious injuries each year.
The number of lives lost on the state's roads in the year to date is up 32.7 per cent from last year, with 211 people dying in car crashes compared to 159 last year.
It comes after a Ballarat driver, in his early 20s, had a lucky escape early on Wednesday morning - his car took out a tree after he ran off the road on Remembrance Drive near Cardigan just before 6.30am.
It is believed fatigue may have been a factor. He was taken to Ballarat Base Hospital with minor injuries.
TAC chief executive officer Joe Calafiore said motorists in regional Victoria were consistently over-represented in the number of people killed on Victorian roads each year and fatigue was a major factor.
Fatigue is a likely factor in almost a third of single-vehicle crashes in rural areas, with most occurring at night.
Research highlights that driving while drowsy is a dangerous activity, as being awake for 17 hours has the same impact on the body as driving with an illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05.
This increases to a BAC of 0.1, double the legal limit, if a driver has not slept for 24 hours.
Mr Calafiore said the results were a concern for everybody, considering that fatigue could have the same effect on driving ability as alcohol.
"It is a concern that so many of us, including young drivers, are knowingly getting behind the wheel while drowsy," he said.
Victoria Police Ballarat Local Area Commander, Acting Inspector Ben Young, said the results were concerning to see after years of road policing throughout western Victoria, but police continued to see fatigue and distraction play a major role in road trauma.
"Locally, we continue to see concerning levels of drivers using their mobile phones, in one recent incident a driver completed a video call whilst continuing to drive in heavy CBD traffic," he said.
We will never be in a position where we can police ourselves out of road trauma and need a dedicated commitment from all road users to put road safety for everyone at the forefront of their decisions in regards to driving.Acting Inspector Ben Young
Acting Inspector Young said fatigue could take many forms while driving but all came with a significant risk.
"The result of a vehicle out of control and travelling at high speed has devastating consequences," he said.
"Fatigue can occur from driving long distances or periods, it can occur when someone is tired before attempting to drive, and we often see it when the body or mind relaxes and drivers are closer to home or finishing their journey."
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"Fatigue leads to a loss of attention, to drowsiness, micro sleeps and ultimately drivers falling asleep. These drivers are behind the wheels of vehicles weighing over 1000 kilograms and often travelling at high speed, this can be contributed to when using cruise control."
He said it was important that all drivers drive only when well-rested, take notice of the warning signs of fatigue and pull over if they need to, plan their journey, take regular breaks and try to drive at times when they would normally be awake.
Also on Wednesday, Minister for Roads, Road Safety and the TAC Jaala Pulford launched Victoria's next road safety strategy survey to help the government understand how Victorians use the state's road network and how to make it safer.
The statewide survey is the third stage of community engagement to contribute to the development of the strategy that will succeed the current Towards Zero Strategy and Action Plan. It will be launched next year.
It comes after the Melbourne Road Safety Summit in May and the eight Towards Zero Regional Road Safety Forums, which sought the ideas, insights and experiences of regional road users.
The short survey is open to responses until the end of October. Visit engage.vic.gov.au/TZ2020 to complete it.
-With Greg Gliddon
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