One in four Australian drivers admit to taking more risks on the road after the implementation of coronavirus restrictions, according to new research from the national road safety body.
The amount of traffic on Australia's roads has dramatically decreased since states began imposing restrictions on movement in order to contain the COVID-19 virus spread from mid-March 2020 onwards.
But alarming statistics from the Australian Road Safety Foundation's (ARSF) annual report show that while two thirds of Australians believe the roads are safer under current conditions, the rate of dangerous driving behaviours has actually increased.
Speeding is up a whopping 17 per cent on usual levels, mobile phone use has increased by 9 per cent, running a red light or stop sign is 5 per cent more common and drink driving has seen a 3 per cent spike.
Men, who make up two thirds of the current national road toll, are also more likely to engage in these risky road behaviours than women, the research found.
“Sadly, with fewer cars on the roads during coronavirus, we’re seeing an increase in bad driver behaviour, which is unacceptable,” ARSF founder and CEO Russell White said.
“For every road death, another 35 Australians are hospitalised. Don't let a split second decision change your or someone else's life forever.”
More broadly speaking, the annual report found four in five Australians admit to having broken a road law at some point, with 39 per cent of those respondents admitting they weren't paying attention at the time.
Disturbingly, a quarter of Australian drivers also admit to driving while over the legal alcohol limit and only seven per cent of all drivers said they think about the safety of other road users behind the wheel.
Two thirds (68 per cent) of Australian drivers admit to speeding, while 28 per cent admit to doing so on a weekly basis.
The gender divide persists throughout the ARSF's report, which found men are more likely than women to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drive fatigued, exceed the speed limit, not wear a seatbelt or use a mobile phone while driving.
They are also more likely than women to speed or use their mobile phone while driving with children in the car.
Unfortunately, a reduction in the number of cars on the road amid COVID-19 restrictions hasn't lead to a dramatic reduction in deaths on our roads, with ARSF data suggesting the national year-to-date road toll has only declined by 12.5 per cent compared to the same period last year.
This was despite this year's national Easter road toll being cut by more than half due to fewer drivers on the road.
At last check, Australia was on track to miss its National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) target to reduce road deaths and injuries by 30 per cent through the decade to 2020.