Herald-Sun - Wednesday 11 April, 2007

10 ways to cut toll

FORMER Victoria Police assistant commissioner (traffic) Ray Shuey, RACV general manager (public policy) Ken Ogden and Australian College of Road Safety chair Kerry Smith discuss 10 ideas to tackle the road toll.

1. THE current .05 limit for full licence holders could be dropped for a zero blood alcohol limit for all.

Shuey says zero alcohol for all drivers would make a dramatic difference to the road toll.

But he says the real issue is the fear of being caught, so there needs to be a substantial presence of booze buses.

Ogden says the current laws should be complied with before making it tougher for law-abiding drivers. Smith says zero alcohol limits in Scandanavian countries cut the road toll significantly.

2. ORGANISATIONS such as the Pedestrian Council of Australia frequently complain about car advertisements that promote speeding. Smith says the culture that speeding is fun has to change.

Ogden says such ads are already banned, but not effectively. He says the principle is correct.

Shuey says the ads affect driver behaviour, despite claims by car companies they portray hypothetical situations.

3. LEARNERS can currently get a permit at 16, and a probationary licence at 18.

Raising the minimum age would remove many of the most vulnerable drivers on the road.

Shuey says the most dangerous age is between 18 and 25, and a zero alcohol limit until 25 has merit.

Smith says the amount of on-road experience is more important than age. Ogden says the idea would be politically unacceptable.

He says the new graduated licence system, which will be introduced on July 1, will address this issue. Smith says it's not as unpopular with young people as people would think.

4. SHOULD bad drivers be forced to driver slower than the rest of us?

Ogden says no. The safest driving conditions are when everyone is travelling at the same speed, he says, a point that Smith agrees with.

She says they would be more of a hazard than a help.

Shuey says it would be impossible to police.

5. OVERSEAS experience shows bans on young drivers from the roads at night cuts the number of crashes.

Shuey says it's a reasonable idea, but it could affect young people who work at night. Ogden says the evidence is clear it would make a difference and, like Shuey, says it has implications for work and school.

6. LIKE curfews, experience shows that restricting young people from carrying "peer" passengers -- those of their own age group -- reduces the risk of crashes. Smith says young people together in a car egg each other on. Ogden says the last thing inexperienced drivers need is distraction. He says the evidence is clear it would make a difference. Shuey says drivers were less likely to "show off" if they only had one passenger.

7. OGDEN says this should be a top priority. He says buyers of new cars should insist on new technology such as electronic stability control. Shuey says there should also be more air bags as well as seatbelt interlocks and alcohol interlocks. Smith says her organisation supports the Australian New Car Assessment Program, where new cars are crashed and rated for safety.

8. DESPITE their popularity, research shows some courses make younger drivers too confident. Shuey says the main backers of the idea were the driver training schools. The cost is also an issue, he says. Ogden says the idea would be counterproductive, because the evidence shows if you make drivers think they are better than they are, they take greater risks. Smith agrees, and says the courses would make young males, especially, believe that they were invincible.

9. SMITH says young men were the main culprits, but they should not face tougher punishment or restriction. She says research shows a rise in young women behaving aggressively behind the wheel. The law needs to be applied equally, she says. Ogden and Shuey agree there should be no discriminatory laws.

10. OGDEN says the roads should be fixed in the first place. If governments haven't spent motorists' taxes creating a safer road, Ogden questions why the motorist should pay through the imposition of a lower speed limit. Shuey says there would be merit in the idea, but would need more policing. Smith says some roads should be designed so drivers don't have a choice but to slow down.

Note:  Former Victoria Assistant Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Ray Shuey is a Director of the Pedestrian Council of Australia


© This work is copyright and is reproduced under licence from News Limited