Driver train­ing key to safe roads

Sunday Territorian - - OPINION - Chris Lugg Chris Lugg is the pres­i­dent of the North­ern Divi­sion of En­gi­neers Aus­tralia

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.

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