NTC turns attention to driver distraction solutions

Regulatory body exploring technology-neutral options

NTC turns attention to driver distraction solutions
Gillian Miles


The National Transport Commission (NTC) has released a consultation regulation impact statement (RIS) seeking feedback on technology-neutral options to regulate driver distraction.

Distraction is seen as a significant road safety risk which the NTC says is not as well understood as other risk factors such as drink-driving and speeding.

Developing technology-neutral road rules for driver distraction references data from studies that even a two-second distraction "can be particularly hazardous", and drivers engage in non-driving activities every 96 seconds while behind the wheel.

NTC chief executive officer Gillian Miles says new technology-related distractions, outdated rules and a general lack of understanding from road users present significant challenges.

"Distractions take our concentration off the road which means we may not have time to react to hazards.

"We are proposing four options for consideration.

"The views of a broad range of stakeholders are crucial to guide any policy reform to deal with driver distraction." 

Look back on the NTC's HVNL review consultation progress to date, here

The NTC says its four options for consideration are:

  • Status quo: While this technology-based option does not align with the Transport and Infrastructure Council’s request for a technology-neutral approach, we have included it as the baseline to which all other options will be compared. The Guideline for Ministerial Councils and National Standard Setting Bodies requires that the ‘status quo’ and effectiveness of existing regulations should be considered as an option for meeting the objectives (Council of Australian Governments, 2007)
  • Prescriptive: This technology-neutral option proposes new prescriptive offences deterring specific high-risk behaviours
  • Performance-based: This technology-neutral option proposes to address distraction by outlining the outcome sought by legislation, which is the safe execution of the driving task
  • Hybrid: A technology-neutral option that combines elements from the previous two options and seeks to provide the benefits from both approaches while minimising their disadvantages.

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) reviewed the best international research available to date on driver distraction, NTC notes.

Consultation closes on 21 August 2019 and the NTC will then deliver a decision RIS for transport ministers’ consideration in May 2020.

The consultation RIS is available here.

You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook