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I Like Driving In My Car But How Safe Are Our Roads?

Part of the title of this article 'I like driving in my car' is a popular song by the British band Madness. If driving forms a part of your work then madness might well be your answer if asked the question; 'What have you seen on the roads whilst driving that makes you feel unsafe?'

Whilst it is true that road toll statistics in Victoria have generally declined, in 2019 there was a significant spike increase. This is a surprise. According to the RACV there have been significant reductions in the road toll when major initiatives have been introduced. Below is a short guide

  • 1966 there was an introduction of 0.05 blood alcohol law
  • 1970 compulsory seatbelt laws were introduced
  • 1976 Random breath testing stations were introduced
  • 1983 Red light cameras were introduced
  • 1984 Zero blood alcohol legislation for L and P-Plate drivers was introduced
  • 2018 road toll statistics recorded a record low - 213
  • 2019 unfortunately there was a spike in the number of lives lost - 263

Victoria was the first state to introduce mandatory wearing of seatbelts. At the time, in 1970, the road toll was over 1,000 (1,061 to be precise) yet still there was resentment at this basic safety measure that people now seem to take for granted. Imagine for a second how you would feel if you got into a car that had no seatbelts.

According to RACV whilst there has been a fairly constant decline in road fatalities against a backdrop of a threefold increase in registered motor vehicles in Victoria the spike increase has caused the state government to organise a summit meeting. This involved relevant stakeholders such as the Victorian Police, Vic Roads, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) and RACV. The summit also involved various experts. It was then followed by a series of community forums.

In July 2019 the state government announced a parliamentary inquiry to consider the adequacy of current laws on drug and alcohol testing, the impact of smart phones on driver distraction, speed management and enforcement as well as road maintenance.

A belief seems to be that it will not happen to us, yet it does happen to ordinary people. Young people are particularly vulnerable and are overrepresented with 18-25 year old's accounting for a quarter of drivers killed over the past decade.

So, what can we do? Well we undertake some form of assessment in the workplace where there is high risk. This could be in the form of a risk assessment, safe work method statement, specific type of permit or similar. The resulting controls would form a safe system of work. But do we undertake anything similar before we drive? If you drive a forklift at work then pre-start checks before using the vehicle might well be second nature. But when did you last check your own vehicle's tyre pressure or their general condition or any other safety feature? Is it simply left to the mechanic?  It is not just about the vehicle of course, the emphasis also needs to be put onto safer speeds and safer roads, and safer drivers as well.

Consideration must be given to buying the safest car you can afford, undertaking the necessary research about safety features using a reputable rating system. Ensure that you and all passengers are safely restrained. This may involve undertaking research to check that children are suitably restrained eg the correct, safe child car seat or booster seat. Ensuring that you or the driver if it not you, is unaffected by fatigue, alcohol or drugs. Avoid distractions. A great tip would be to place your phone in the glove compartment. Finally, plan your journey if it is to a new location, check for any traffic related issues then drive safely, that is within the speed limit or to the conditions and drive at a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

As you read this it may just be a refresher of what you already know. But is it what you already do?

Remember the words no-one wants to hear: "Mum/ dad there are two policeman at the door" and make the necessary changes.

Further information on road safety:

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