THE REAL RISKS AFFECTING OUR HOLIDAY ROAD SAFETY

THE REAL RISKS AFFECTING OUR HOLIDAY ROAD SAFETY

Every holiday period there is a spike in road accidents and injury. And every holiday there’s widespread media coverage claiming that there needs to be a crackdown on “delinquent hoons”. Cries for the extension of the NSW average speed camera network to include cars litter the airwaves.

Yet neither of these uninformed positions are based on facts. Rather, they capitalise on emotion and prey on an uninformed “anti-car” demographic — seemingly seeking to invoke panic.

Why are speed cameras as treated as the holy grail of road injury reduction?

Why does the road toll increase over holiday periods?

The answer is quite simple. It’s because there are more vehicles on the road, increasing risk on a simple numerical basis.

There are more vehicles driving through known ‘black spots’, and there are more drivers on the roads who are inexperienced with long distance driving. Inexperienced long-distance drivers are less likely to take appropriate breaks, and more likely to continue driving as they become fatigued.

Data-proven risks: Fatigue, mobile phones and alcohol

It is refreshing to see John Hartley, Assistant Commissioner of Highway Patrol, being interviewed on TV around holiday periods. He speaks about fatigue, mobile phones, alcohol and other data-proven risks as things for drivers to watch out for. His approach is a breath of fresh air and compared to the speed mantra falsely blamed by the revenue raising Victorian Police equivalent.

Recent Australian research proves that drivers and riders forced to constantly check their speedometers are at a similar distraction risk to drivers using a mobile phone. In other words, turning on the average speed cameras system to involve cars and motorcycles will increase traffic distraction.

Distraction is a major cause of road accident and motor vehicle injury. Our current Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, knows this and we all must hope his successor has the same level of integrity and road safety smarts. It would be so easy for an uninformed future minister to bend to inaccurate reporting and switch on the revenue-raising machines, leading to greater distraction and causing more road death and injury.

It’s far too easy to simply blame speeding. And the reaction isn’t working. Time that we got behind the initiatives that encourage drivers to take more responsibility for the way they drive, to be more alert, to be more aware – for their safety and that of those around them.