Study reveals spike in risk-taking and speeding during Victoria lockdowns

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Despite restricted travel, Victorian drivers were more likely to be involved in a crash during the state’s multiple lockdowns.

Drivers took more risks and broke the speed limit significantly more often during Victoria’s lockdowns than before the pandemic, according to a Monash University study.

The study, conducted by the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC), examined risk-taking on Victorian roads in relation to travel during the six lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

Victorian drivers faced a 38 per cent increase in the risk of a crash during any one of the state’s six lockdowns compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

That comes despite a significant reduction in travel due to lockdown restrictions, with fewer journeys and a lower number of vehicles on the state’s roads.

The research showed while travel was reduced by between 30 and 60 per cent during a lockdown, the risk of road trauma did not correspondingly fall – instead dramatically increasing.

For example, the MUARC noted while the total number of speeding infringements fell drivers on the road during a lockdown were more likely to speed. This saw the number of speeding infringements per road user increase.

The largest change was in the heavy vehicle sector, which MUARC says saw as much as a 100 per cent increase in the number of infringements issued per vehicle.

This saw the likelihood of road trauma increase dramatically overall, with a 44 per cent higher risk in 50km/h limited areas, an 85 per cent increase in 60-70km/h areas and a 64 per cent rise in 100-100km/h zones.

The report also examined Random Breath Tests (RBT).

The number of RBTs during lockdown decreased, however the rate of detection of drivers exceeding the legal blood-alcohol limit increased fivefold.

Similarly, illicit drug use detection also doubled during the restrictions. 

“Overall, it was found that increases in excessive speeding, and drink- and drug-driving added to the evidence that suggests such risk-taking behaviours have contributed to higher levels of road trauma than might have been expected based on changes to exposure alone,” the report stated.

Data from mobile and fixed speed cameras, as well as other network traffic cameras, road infrastructure investment, the Victorian Department of Transport and Planning, as well as Victoria Police and Department of Health, was used in the research.  

The sixth and last lockdown in Victoria ended on 21 October 2021.

Since the pandemic, the state’s road toll has continued to rise, with 240 fatalities in 2022 – up from 233 in 2021- according to the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE).

So far in 2023, Victoria has recorded 238 road user deaths – exceeding the five-year average of 236 for a full year – with 273 in the 12 months leading to 31 October.

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