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Regulation by design; not crisis.

Jepson, J, Faulks, I, Regan, M, Stevenson, M, Brown, J, Porter, A, Irwin, J D

Driver Risk & Behaviour

ACRS conference 2005

The BBC reported, on 5 December 2003, that US police stopped a driver who was breastfeeding her child while travelling at 100 km/h. Before pulling up, she also managed to phone her husband for advice while taking notes on the steering wheel.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (2004). Road safety in Australia: A publication commemorating World Health Day 2004. Canberra, ACT: Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

Perhaps the example above is not so strange when we consider that so many things command our attention today—the increasing demands on ‘keeping up’ with activities, the apparent need to optimise time, and the integral role that instant communication now plays in all our lives. Moreover, the accessibility, in terms of availability and cost, of telematic devices (i.e., wireless communications technologies-see footnote), all contribute to a new threat to road safety. In vehicle telematics refers to devices incorporating wireless communications technologies in order to provide information services, vehicle automation and other functions (Transport Canada, 2003). Both in-vehicle and out of vehicle distractions now challenge drivers on a daily basis both on a cognitive and a physical level (Harbluk & Noy, 2002). That these are potential and actual harms on the road is uncontroversial. Further, the fact that drivers give in voluntarily to distraction, as in the example above, suggests that such drivers either:

• are unaware that a lapse in concentration is harmful; or

• believe that in their case they are sufficiently competent to focus their attention elsewhere while driving.

In reality, it is likely that both factors contribute to the behaviour.