CR 197: Community Attitudes to Road Safety: Community Attitudes Survey Wave 13 (2000)

This is the thirteenth in a series of annual surveys of community attitudes and perceptions towards a range of road safety issues. Findings from this 2000 Community Attitudes Survey (CAS 13) were derived from telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,593 Australian residents aged 15 years and over. A summary of the main findings from the 2000 survey, along with a description of emerging trends and patterns, is provided below. More detailed results are provided in the main body of this report.

Main trends and comparisons–Overall

Vehicle speed and drink driving continue to be clearly perceived by the Australian community as the dominant factors leading to road crashes. The CAS monitor has consistently found that each of these factors is spontaneously mentioned by over half the population as a major crash cause.

Despite this high awareness of the results of speeding and drink driving, there is still a marked and persistent difference in public attitudes towards enforcement of these issues. For example, whereas support for random breath testing has been almost universal over the life of the survey (consistently at 97%), opinions on speed enforcement have been much more divided. This year's survey shows 56% of the community still agree with the proposition that 'fines for speeding are mainly intended to raise revenue' and one in three still agree that 'it is okay to exceed the speed limit if you are driving safely.'

While the community clearly views speeding as more socially acceptable than drink driving, there is growing evidence of a positive shift in public attitudes. Over the past seven surveys, responses to a range of speed-related questions suggest that people are becoming less permissive of speeding behaviours. CAS 13 in particular has shown an increase in acceptance of 50 km/h in residential streets, though desire for 40 km is still a minority view. CAS 13 also shows fewer people tolerating speeds over 60 km in residential streets.

The CAS series has also shown an increasing trend in the number of people who say or agree that:

  • they only speed occasionally or never speed
  • there should be no tolerance or at most a 5 km/h tolerance for breaking the speed limit in a 60 km/h zone
  • an extra 10 km/h will significantly increase crash risk, an
  • in 60 km/h zones, an extra 10 km/h will make any crash a lot more severe.

At the same time, there has been a decrease in the number of people who would tolerate speeding at 15 km/h or above in 100 km/h zones and in the number of people who believe that it is okay to speed if driving safely.

While the research has been showing that fatigue is increasingly being recognised as a major contributor to road crashes, the latest survey shows a small decline in mentions of this factor. Compared with six years ago, mention of fatigue as one of three main reasons for road crashes nearly doubled, from 19% in CAS 7 (1993) to 35% in CAS 12. CAS 13 still records a high 30% mention, unaided.

State and Territory comparisons

The research shows significant differences in opinion between some States and Territories on major road safety issues such as speed, drink driving and fatigue.

People from the Northern Territory, for example, nominate speed less often than people from all the other States as the main factor in road crashes. They also mention drink driving more often than other States and Territories as the single most likely cause of road crashes.

On average, 10% of Australians report that they mostly drive 10 km/h or more above the speed limit. This number rises to 15% in the ACT. The research shows that breaking the speed limit is reported least often in Tasmania (3%).

The ACT also provides one of the highest perceptions that speed cameras and radar spots are easy to pick, along with Western Australia. CAS 13 shows 42% of the people surveyed in Western Australia and 33% in Victoria stating that they often receive advance warning about the location of speed cameras and radar spots, against a national average of 24%. Queensland (15%) and NSW (20%) are well below the national average on this measure.

While approval of a 50 km/h limit in residential areas is again expressed by a majority of people in all States and Territories, it remains highest in Queensland (73%), followed by NSW (70%) and Victoria (70%).

NSW and ACT residents report the lowest incidence of being breath tested in the last six months (one in five), compared with one third in each of the remaining locations.

After speed and drink driving, fatigue is consistently mentioned as the third most common cause of crashes. Fatigue is mentioned as a crash cause at higher levels than the national average in the ACT, Queensland and NSW. Significant falls in overall mention of fatigue have occurred, however, in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania.

Spontaneous reference to lack of concentration (the fourth most often nominated crash cause) tends to be most pronounced in South Australia, where 24% say it is the one main factor.

While there has been a national increase in the stated likelihood of wearing a rear seat belt, up from 85% last year to 89% in CAS 13, the Northern Territory (77%) is still below the national average (note that the reported rate has increased from 65% (CAS 12)).

Demographic comparisons

  • Age groups

    The research clearly shows that age is the main predictor of how frequently drivers exceed the speed limit. One in five of the 15–24 year old age group admits to exceeding the speed limit often, compared with one in ten aged 25–59 and less than one in twenty in the 60 plus age group.

    The youngest group surveyed, 15–24 years of age, is still more focused on alcohol (60%) as a road safety issue than speed (53%). Also, they are the most likely to say that they don't drink if they are going to drive (53%), against the average of 40%. People in this age group who do drink remain the most interested in using a self-operated breath testing machine,with 56% (47% in CAS 12) saying 'very likely' in comparison to the national average of 37%. The research has shown an increased interest this year in using a selfoperated breath testing machine, up from 28% (CAS 12) to 37%.

  • Male: Female

    Consistent with previous surveys in this series, CAS 13 shows a marked difference in attitudes between females and males when it comes to speeding and drink driving.

    More females than males again place speed as the main cause of road crashes (42% v 33%) and think that there should be strict enforcement of speed limits for 60 km/h zones (54% v 42%) and for 100 km/h zones (40% v 25%). Fewer females than males believe it is okay to exceed the speed limit if you are driving safely (27% to 40% of males), with females being more likely to say they never drive at 10 km/h or more over the posted speed limit (25% v 15%).

    These attitudes are consistent with the finding that fewer females (16%) than males (24%) said they had been booked for speeding in the last two years.

    Females who hold a driver's licence are significantly more likely than males to say they do not drink at any time (23% of females, 13% of males). A larger proportion of female licence holders (44%) than males (36%) say that they do not drink before they drive. Females are still less likely than males to be aware of the correct guidelines for alcohol consumption by their sex, particularly for the first hour.

    In the context of being a pedestrian, females (61%) are significantly more likely than males (45%) to think that having a BAC over .05 would affect their ability to act safely as a pedestrian.

  • City: Rural

    While speed and drink driving continue to be nominated as crash causes at a similar frequency in both capital cities and rural locations, fatigue is once again a factor of which the non-metropolitan community is more aware (38% compared with 26% in the cities).

    Consistent with previous years, though again at lower levels, residents in nonmetropolitan areas (43%) are more likely than those residing in the cities (35%) to believe RBT activity has increased. The community in non-metropolitan areas is also slightly more likely to have noticed an increase in speed enforcement (66% v 60%) and a rise in occupant restraint enforcement (32% v 26%).

    People in capital cities are significantly more inclined to report being booked for speeding in the past two years (22% v 16% elsewhere). Those living outside the cities are more likely to want 60 km/h zones in urban areas strictly enforced.

    The likelihood of always wearing occupant restraints (both front and rear) is still higher in the cities, although the likelihood of wearing the rear belt has improved this year.

Summary of CAS 13 (2000) findings

  • Factors contributing to road crashes

    When nominating up to three crash causes, over half of the community include speed (62%) or drink driving (54%).

    The third factor is fatigue (30%), followed by lack of concentration (26%).

  • Alcohol and drink driving

    Drink driving remains a significant concern for the Australian community, with 54% mentioning it as one of the three main causes of crashes. CAS 12 noted that this concern was most prevalent among the 15–24 age group (66%). The results of this survey show a lower concentration of concern in that age group (down to 60%), but an increase in 25–39 age group (from 52% to 58%).

    Random breath testing still has almost universal support (97%).

  • Speed

    When it comes to nominating the one cause most often leading to road crashes, speed still dominates the Australian community's thinking. At least one in three (38%) people spontaneously mentioned speeding as the single most likely cause. This is three times the next most often mentioned cause, which is drink driving.

    All sections of the community maintain favourable attitudes towards speed regulations, with 87% agreeing that 'speed limits are generally set at reasonable levels' and 68% agreeing that speed limits should be lowered to 50 km/h in residential areas. These positive attitudes extend to awareness of the danger of speeding–69% agree that an extra 10 km/h will significantly increase crash risk and 90% agree that an accident at 70 km/h will make any crash a lot more severe than one at 60 km/h.

    A clear majority of the community maintain the favourable attitudes towards speed enforcement that have existed over the past few years. In a 60 km/h zone, 48% favour strict enforcement of the speed limit and a further 36% would only tolerate a 5 km/h excess over the limit. In 100 km/h zones, 33% favour strict enforcement of the speed limit, but 57% would permit up to 10 km/h over the limit before being booked. These results show a continuing and decreasing tolerance for speeding in the community.

  • Compulsory carriage of licence

    While legislation requiring people to carry their licence at all times when driving a motor vehicle is in force only in New South Wales, most drivers throughout the country believe it already exists in their State or Territory. A high 85% approve of it. All age groups give their support, with approval gaining even more strength as people get older.
  • Occupant restraints

    Consistent with previous years, nearly all people (96%) say they always wear their seat belt in the front seat. Fewer people say they always wear a belt if in the rear seat though the new survey shows the incidence increasing from 85% to 89%. An increase in rear seat belt wearing was evident in most locations, with the largest improvement in the Northern Territory, which has been typically lowest, up from 65% to 77%.

    Males are still significantly less likely than females to use their front and rear seat belt all the time.

  • Motorcycle riding

    Some 7% of Australians say that they have ridden a motorcycle on the road in the last year. Males are in the clear majority (13%).
  • Involvement in road crashes

    The survey shows that 18% of the community have been involved in some sort of road crash in the last 3 years.

    The 15–24 age group is the most likely to have been involved in a road crash, at 29%. The over 60s are by far the least likely, at 10%.

    The following pages describe the research that was carried out for CAS 13 and provide a more detailed analysis of the survey findings. Where appropriate, findings are compared with previous surveys in this series. A table of comparisons of findings over time is attached as Appendix II.

Type: Research and Analysis Report

Author(s): Philip Mitchell-Taverner

Topics: Community attitudes

Publication Date: 01/03/00