Swearing, horn honking and gesturing found to be highest among drivers aged 18 to 34
Fri 2 Nov 2018
About one in five Australian drivers has admitted to experiencing road rage or acting aggressively towards cyclists, according to a new survey of almost 2,000 motorists.
The survey, released by Ford Australia, found that road rage was highest among people aged between 18 and 34 – 23% of whom admitted to swearing, honking their horn or making hand gestures when passing a cyclist.
It found one in 10 drivers experienced this type of road rage at least once a month.
Earlier this week the Australian Cycling Alliance released a video of a violent road rage incident in Melbourne, to highlight attacks on cyclists. The dashcam video shows a cyclist travelling along a road in St Kilda before a four-wheel-drive swerves into him and knocks him off his bike onto the footpath.
The driver then gets out and grabs the bike, throwing it into nearby bushes, and verbally abuses the cyclist. Following the incident, which took place last November, the driver pleaded guilty to recklessly causing injury and was fined $1,000.
The president of the alliance, Edward Hore, told the Age: “This video shows a grotesque attack on a cyclist; there is nothing that can justify this sort of act. This is no different from a coward punch, it’s just as deadly.
“If I was to go out and threaten violence I would be put in prison. This is no different … it’s absolutely no deterrent at all.”
The Ford survey found incidents with cyclists were driven in large part by lack of experience on the part of the driver, combined with “intolerance of cyclists”. Among drivers aged 18-24, 11% said they had been involved in an incident with a cyclist, compared with just 6% of drivers aged 25-60.
Negative attitudes towards cyclists were also much more common among younger drivers, with 40% somewhat or strongly agreeing that “most cyclists don’t respect road rules”.
The research revealed a belief among 70% of Australian drivers that cyclists were to blame when they were involved in dangerous situations with cars. Research shows that in fact drivers are to blame for at least 79% of accidents with cyclists across Australia and about 85% of reported cyclist casualty crashes involve another vehicle, not another bike or a pedestrian.
In the past 12 months, Australia experienced an 80% increase in cyclist deaths. Distraction, especially from texting and smartphone use, a lack of driving experience and a lack of awareness of cyclists have been identified as key factors. One study found driver distraction accounted for one in four accidents.
Bastien Wallace from Bicycle NSW said the survey showed dangerous attitudes among some motorists.
“Some driver attitudes and behaviours fall short of the safety standards we need in NSW if the government’s Towards Zero goals are to be met. We believe driver education is crucial to changing this for the better.”
Bicycle NSW has urged the NSW government to introduce education focused on safe driving attitudes on road sharing with bikes as part of the licence renewal process.
The chief executive of the Amy Gillett foundation, Phoebe Dunn, also argued for better driver education and cultural change.
“There is little to no content in driver training and licensing programs around Australia on how to share the road safely with cyclists. Drivers are simply not being given the skills they need to safely share the roads,” Dunn said.
Almost half of respondents (49%) in the Ford survey said they did not feel confident driving alongside cyclists or overtaking and a third of respondents said they felt they were not adequately trained to share the road with cyclists. Half of all drivers said they worried about sharing the road with cyclists.
“Education and training are vital components of achieving behaviour change and making the roads a safer place for all road users,” Dunn said.
But she also called for legislation to be strengthened and enforced more rigorously.
“There has got to be more policing on this and, at the moment, police have got some laws in their toolbox but for various reasons they don’t have the time and the resources.”
The Amy Gillett Foundation and Ford offer free driver education programs that aim to give drivers the skills to drive confidently alongside cyclists on roads across the country.
Kay Hart, the CEO of Ford Australia and New Zealand, said the driver education program “aims to shift the dial on people’s behaviour when driving and reduce the severity of unintended negative consequences”.