Norway, which is one of the countries that managed to reduce road trauma significantly over the past decade, started by asking this question and followed it up with researched. The NZ Automobile Association Research Foundation funded similar research, which Hamish Mackie of Mackie Research has done for them.
They found that many crashes involve ordinary people not doing anything extreme. They analysed three hundred fatal or serious injury crashes, and grouped them into two categories, reckless behaviour and system failure.
· Reckless behaviour includes driving intoxicated or without a licence, not wearing a seatbelt, going over 20km/ over the speed limit, etc.
· System failure includes vehicles not equipped with airbags, hitting a hazardous roadside object, etc.
This research showed that reckless behaviour was a factor in 49% of fatal crashes and for system failure it was 51%. For serious injury crashes, the split was 29% reckless behaviour and 71% system failure.
What can we take from this?
You do not have to drive recklessly to be killed or seriously injured. Operating a vehicle is a high-risk activity, which demands high level of skill/attention. We cannot assume that everything will be ok on the road, thus we should constantly evaluate the conditions around us. This level of concentration may physiologically drain you much faster, so take regular rest stops and avoid anything that could be a distraction.
Allow extra time for your trip especially if you have an appointment at a certain time.
Most importantly, make the mind shift to acknowledge risk something real and it is killing and/or hurting us.
Please do your bit for the safety of everyone - drive alert and undistracted.