As Australian children return to school from holidays, new research serves as an important reminder to exercise caution, with school pick-up time found to be a particularly dangerous period on our roads.
According to the latest AAMI Crash Index (produced annually), over a quarter of all road incidents in Australia occur in the afternoon, around school pick-up time.
The new data is in line with recent research that found parents are some of the most dangerous drivers on Australian roads, with more than half admitting to speeding or driving distracted with their kids in the car.
AAMI's analysis of 340,000 insurance claims from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019 found that 27 per cent of accidents occurred between 1pm and 4.30pm.
All types of road accident were considered as part of the AAMI Crash Index, such as nose-to-tail, failing to give way, and collision with a stationary object. The research included accidents occurring during school holiday periods.
Regarding the prevalence of accidents around school pick-up time, Russell White, the founder and CEO of the Australian Road Safety Foundation (ARSF), said it was likely a result of a melting pot of different factors.
"You see high volumes of people channelled into relatively small areas so there’s obviously a congestion issue, then you also see people under moderate-to-intense time pressure and you see pinch points in terms of attitudes to other people - aggression, horn blowing and the early stages of automotive violence.
"Then you have young children focussed on where they’re heading to next, so the cumulative effect of all those makes school zones and pick-up times high-risk."
The AAMI data also revealed Friday was the worst day of the week for crashes, followed by Thursday and Wednesday.
Late mornings (between 9.30am and 1pm) were apparently the second-worst time for accidents, accounting for 24 per cent of claims.
Parents more prone to dangerous driving
AAMI's findings follow other research conducted by the ARSF that found parents of children to be some of the country's most dangerous drivers.
What's more, having kids inside the vehicle does not appear to serve as a deterrent for these dangerous drivers.
According to an ARSF survey, 52 per cent of Australian parents admit to speeding, using their mobile phone or driving distracted while their own kids are in the car.
Additionally, one in five parents admitted to taking the same risks when driving a vehicle occupied by someone else’s children.
When it came to drink driving, a third of parents admitted to driving over the legal alcohol limit.
Parents were also over-represented in responses regarding speeding on a regular basis, with 75 per cent admitting to this dangerous behaviour, compared to 67 per cent of those without any children.
"People don’t know that road trauma is the biggest killer of kids aged zero to 14," White told CarAdvice.
"If you replaced that with something like swimming pools, what would our response be? Things like compulsory pool fencing, CPR lessons... It's about the cultural view around road safety."
White urged parents to be conscious of their driving behaviours, given their children would likely take cues from them.
"From the moment that child is facing forward in the car, they’re observing how you drive," he said.
School-zone speed limits, state by state
The findings from AAMI and the ARSF come despite nationwide efforts to discourage speeding in school areas thanks to well-signposted restrictions.
In most Australian states, speed limits around school zones are 40km/h at a minimum, if not lower.
South Australia has the lowest school-zone speed limits in the country, with motorists required to observe a limit of 25km/h at all times - but only when children are present.
"School zones have a speed limit of 25 km/h at any time when a child is in the zone, whenever a child is on the road, footpath, median strip, even if they are on a bike. A child is any person less than 18 years of age and includes a student of any age wearing school uniform," SA's Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure stipulates.
In Victoria and Western Australia, speed limits range from 40km/h to 60km/h and while some zones are permanent, others are variable and time-based.
In the ACT, New South Wales, Tasmania and Northern Territory, school speed limits are 40km/h or less and are variable and based around school timings.
When asked whether more needed to be done to decrease road risks in school zones, White said: "At the very least we need a national consistent view on the situation."
People aged 16 and under accounted for 48 deaths out of the total 2019 national road toll of 1188 people, according to the Australian road deaths database.
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