Vehicle safety is constantly advancing, and new technologies are helping to make drivers, passengers and other road users safer.
- The average vehicle aged in Victoria is over 10 years old.
- You will have a lower risk of death or serious injury in a vehicle with 4 or 5 star safety rating.
- Older drivers (70+) and younger drivers are more likely to be driving older less safe vehicles.
- When you’re looking to purchase a new vehicle it’s important to find out what safety features it has. The How Safe is Your Car website is a good place to start. You can find a 4 or 5 star safety rated vehicle for under $5,000 so no matter what your budget is there will be a vehicle to suit you.
Important car safety features to look for:
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – Senses when a vehicle is steering out of control. It applies individual brakes to help maintain stability and steer the vehicle in the direction intended.
- Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) – Cars fitted with AEB are 38% less likely to collide with the vehicle in front of them, compared to similar cars that do not have AEB.
- Lane Departure Warning – Warns the driver that the car is getting close to crossing over the line marking and leaving their lane of travel.
- Seatbelt Pre-tensioners – Pulls seatbelts tight in the moments before impact, protecting occupants in a collision.
- Airbags – When used in combination with properly worn seatbelts, frontal airbags provide the best protection in a frontal crash.
- Side Curtain Airbags – In the event of a side-impact collision, side curtain airbags drop like a curtain from the railing above the door. They cushion the head against the full impact of another vehicle or object. Driver fatalities have reduced by 37% in side impact crashes.
- Crumple Zones – The part of the vehicle, especially the very front and rear, designed to crumple easily in a crash and absorb the main force of an impact in order to protect that car’s occupants.
- Speed Assistance Systems – Helps drivers keep within the speed limits. With an electronic map of the road network matched with speed limits, an Intelligent Speed Assist (ISA) function provides drivers with a warning to slow down if they exceed the speed limit.
- Strong Occupant Compartment – The cabin of a vehicle should keep its shape in a crash to protect the driver and passengers’ space.
Safer vehicle fleets
Employers are responsible for ensuring fleet cars their staff drive are in sound mechanical condition and have a high safety rating. They also need to ensure employees are committed to driving responsibly in their fleet cars. This is why we encourage all businesses to adopt a fleet safety policy to protect their workers and the community.
- Road crashes are the most common form of work-related fatalities, injuries and absence from work, with research showing ¼ of all Australian company cars are involved in a crash each year.
- Drivers risk fatigue and may speed to meet tight schedules.
- There can also be a lack of concern about vehicle safety as it is a company car.
- It's important to remember that not all cars are created equal. While many safety features like airbags come standard in all new vehicles, there are also newer technologies that don't.
- When you're in the market for a new or used car, check the safety rating and the range of safety technologies available before you buy. Visit the How Safe is Your Car website to find safe vehicles.
When you drive in the city you are faced with lots of vehicles, unpredictable drivers, trucks, train crossings, cyclists, motorbikes, pedestrians, breakdowns and more.
City driving tips:
- Other road users – Anticipate the behaviour of others on the road – look ahead, look behind and be prepared for the unexpected.
- Intersections – Keep a good look out when driving through intersections – they are a high crash risk area.
- Mirrors – Use all your car mirrors but look out for blind spots – always look quickly over your shoulder before changing lanes or pulling out from the kerb.
- Indicators – Always indicate when turning or changing lanes.
- Give space – city driving can involve heavier traffic, it’s still important to ensure there’s enough space between you and the vehicle in front so you can avoid nose to tail collisions.
- Look out for vulnerable road users – people on bicycles and motorcycles have a higher risk of injury in a crash. Make sure you look out for them especially when pulling in and out of car parks.
- Keep your cool – you can’t control everything on the road and there may be things that frustrate you. Staying calm will help you to avoid making risky decisions when driving.
- Hook turns – some Melbourne CBD intersections only allow hook turns. Make sure you’re familiar with how to do these so you don’t get stressed in the moment. Find out more on the VicRoads website.
Driving on regional roads can be completely different from city or town driving. Higher speeds, different road surfaces and increased wildlife can make regional driving more challenging.
Country driving tips:
- Safe distances – Keep a safe distance from the car in front and leave at least a two second gap - three seconds is best. If driving conditions are affected by rain or reduced visibility increase the gap to at least four seconds.
- Overtaking – Don't overtake unless it is safe. When moving back to the left leave enough room to get well past any other vehicle.
- Keep left – Unless overtaking, always keep to the left lane. This is not only courteous; the law requires a vehicle to keep out of the right lane on a multi-lane road with a speed limit over 80 km/h.
- Look for wildlife – there is more wildlife on regional roads, take extra care at dawn and dusk when native wildlife is likely to more active.
- Fatigue – regional driving is likely to include longer distances and driving times. Driver fatigue accounts for up to 20% of deaths on our roads. Find out more about avoiding tired driving.
Safe driving tips
Crash risk increases at night. Visibility can be difficult as other vehicles and road users are harder to detect and other vehicle lights can make distance difficult to judge. At night more road users may have been drinking, making their behaviour more unpredictable and hazardous.
Night Driving tips:
- Headlights – Headlights and tail lights must be on between sunset and sunrise. You must have your headlights on low-beam when another vehicle is within 200 metres. This includes dipping the headlights when driving 200 metres or less behind another vehicle.
- Cars driving towards you – When a car with high-beam headlights is driving towards you look towards the left hand side of the road and drive towards the left of your lane. You may need to slow down and pull over to let your eyes recover if the lights dazzle you.
- Breakdowns – If your vehicle breaks down on the road make sure other drivers can see your car and stop in time. Turn on the hazard warning lights if you have them. If possible, pull off the road but avoid stopping just over a hill or just around a curve.
- Reflectors – Reflectors or guide posts in country areas help you to see the road ahead. Red reflectors are always on the left side of the road and white reflectors on the right hand side.
Driving in the rain, fog, snow and bright sunlight calls for extra care as these conditions can reduce visibility or increase the risk of skidding and losing and control.
Tips for all weather conditions
- Reduce speed – Reduce speed in bad weather as your recovery time is better if something goes wrong.
- Fog – If you see fog and mist ahead reduce speed before you enter it. In very thick fog make sure you always know where you are on the road and never drive at a speed that forces you to guess what is ahead. Avoid overtaking.
- Rain – Heavy rain can have the same effect as fog with less visibility making it harder to judge where you are on the road in relation to other vehicles.
- Ice – Drive slowly on ice and snow to retain traction. Braking should be gentle and not left to the last second, and use an even pressure on the accelerator to lessen the chances of wheel spin and loss of control.
- Sun glare – Beware of blinding glare from sunlight either directly from the sun or reflected from other cars and objects. You may need to reduce speed as well as use aids such as the sun visor and sunglasses.
- Hazard lights – Turn these on in hazardous weather conditions where visibility is reduced.
Any vehicle you tow behind a car is classified a trailer whether it is a caravan, a horse float, boat, mobile machinery or similar device. Cars perform differently when towing a trailer. Acceleration is slower and it takes longer to stop. Side winds, passing other vehicles, bumps and potholes on the road can affect the vehicle's stability.
Towing trailers means you need to concentrate more and use different driving techniques to handle the additional demands placed on you.
Tips for towing trailers:
- Look ahead – Look further ahead than usual to anticipate the movement of other traffic and road conditions.
- Distance – Keep a greater distance to the vehicle ahead as the added weight of the trailer requires more road space in which to stop.
- Overtaking – If overtaking other vehicles, allow more distance in which to do so. On long or steep downhill grades select a lower gear to increase control of the vehicle and place less stress on the brakes.
- Sway – Reduce the risk of sway developing by avoiding sudden lane changes or swerving. If sway develops, maintain a steady speed or accelerate slightly until you regain control. Do not apply the brakes unless absolutely necessary. Strong side winds can cause sway with large rigs such as caravans. If conditions are very bad, it is better not to tow.
- Other Traffic – If a long queue develops behind you, where possible let the following vehicles overtake you. This may mean pulling over and stopping from time to time.