Driver training key to safe roads
ENGINEERS have been responsible for the much improved safety on our roads.
In motor vehicles for instance, we have seen the introduction of seatbelts, airbags, side intrusion barriers, collapsible steering columns, ABS brakes, electronic stability control, passenger safety cells, impact reducing bumpers and more.
Most of these improvements have been introduced since Australian Design Rules (ADR) for motor vehicles came into effect on January 1, 1969.
When looking at road fatalities in Australia when measured either per 100,000 persons or per 10,000 registered vehicles the road fatality figure peaked in 1970.
These tragic statistics fell steadily in the next forty years by about 80 per cent in real terms.
The one constant weak link towards safer roads is the driver and poor driving skills.
Driver training has remained, basic, inadequate and is very poor preparation for safe passage on the roads.
“The constant weak link is the driver and poor skills”
If the vehicle was a light aircraft rather than a car this situation would not be tolerated, yet the potential for lethal consequences is similar.
Alcohol, speed, road conditions etc get blamed, when the real problem is mainly driver error. Poor decision making by the driver is the overwhelming reason why we have road accidents.
When a person decides to drive when they have had too much to drink, it is a driver decision problem.
When a person decides to text when they should not, it is a driver decision problem.
When a driver makes a poor choice, it is a driver decision problem.
The problem is best fixed by better training, not fines.
The solution to poor driver decision making is comprehensive driver training.
It starts with the premise that once a driver is in control then whatever the vehicle does next, is the responsibility of the driver.
We must invest in developing drivers not only in operation of a vehicle under all conditions such as night driving in traffic, night driving in wet conditions at highway speeds, skid recovery, emergency stopping, etc. but also in responsibility training.
The future of our society is vested with our young people and yet we set them loose in a potentially lethal environment when we know they are poorly prepared and at much greater risk than others on our roads.
Most of our learners are barely proficient at negotiating traffic lights, driving in traffic with other vehicles.
Added to this is the high degree of situational awareness needed and a level of maturity needed which is only developed with experience.
Engineers have done an incredible job over the years since 1969 to improve road safety and driverless cars may be the next step.
Driverless cars may be still some years away but we can act now to introduce far more comprehensive driver training.