Fact sheet: Risky road use

Each day Australians behave in ways that increase their risk of a crash. These behaviours can be as simple as crossing against a red light, going just above the speed limit, or ‘pushing on’ when you are tired but almost home. People may not identify these as risky road use but they can and do have fatal consequences for both the driver and others around them. We need a focus on reducing everyday risky behaviour, whether deliberate or inadvertent.

Intentionally reckless and dangerous driving behaviour often receives substantial attention both in the media and in the public sphere. The ‘demonisation’ of this behaviour can allow the average driver to separate themselves from this cohort, where being a ‘little bit over’ is normalised and the term ‘risky’ may feel like it doesn’t apply. Risky road use is not just about extreme or excessive road behaviours, but any behaviour outside of the Australian Road Rules.

What is risky road use?

Illegal behaviours

  • Speeding (at any level)
  • Illegal mobile phone use and other forms of distracted driving
  • Drink or drug driving
  • Not wearing a seat-belt or helmet, or using appropriate child seats
  • Failing to obey road signs and signals, for example running a red light
  • Unlicensed driving
  • Overcrowded vehicles
  • ‘Hoon-like’ behaviour such us burnouts, street racing
  • Illegal use of e-scooters and other mobility devices
  • Crossing unbroken lines
  • Driving unsafe or un-roadworthy vehicles

Other high-risk behaviours

  • Driving at inappropriate speeds
  • Not driving to the conditions
  • Driving while fatigued, distracted or inattentive
  • Pedestrians who are less visible or act in an unpredictable manner whilst walking near or on roads after drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs (can also be classified as illegal depending on the circumstances)
  • Walking on sections of road not designed for pedestrian traffic

Data and research shows there is increased risk associated with most of the above behaviours, although some, like fatigue and distraction, are more difficult to study and quantify. Telematics can be used to monitor a driver’s performance and provide feedback, particularly through workplace vehicle fleets such as heavy vehicles. Some new vehicles now also come with in-vehicle driver monitoring systems such as fatigue or distraction alert systems.

Applying enforcement and deterrence strategies is an important way of targeting and reducing many types of risky road use. It will be important to continue monitoring and improving these programs, by adapting the detection and enforcement strategies where needed. However, cultural change is also needed around what is considered risky, including through developing a greater understanding of the risks and consequences associated with these behaviours, for example through education. The challenge is to shift the culture to re-evaluate what is felt to be acceptable.

For more information on enforcement and deterrence, view the enforcement fact sheet.

How behaviours increase risk


Increased risk

Drink and drug driving

Casualty crash risk doubles when driving with an alcohol level just in excess of 0.05 blood alcohol concentration and the risk of involvement in a fatal crash increases even more sharply.

In the five years up to 2017, approximately 37 per cent of all drivers and motorcyclists killed had drugs in their system.[1]

Driving while fatigued

Drivers who have slept for 4-5 hours in the past 24 hours are 4.5 times more likely to crash than drivers who have slept seven hours or more

With just four hours sleep, this increases to 11.5 times more likely.[2]

Speeding – ‘just a little bit over’

The risk of involvement in a fatal crash doubles with every 5 km/h increase in speed over the limit in a 60 km/h zone.[3]

Distracted driving

16 per cent of serious casualty road crashes resulting in hospital attendance in Australia occur as a result of distracted driving.[4]