Home' Journeys : Oct Nov 2015 Contents The model illustrates that, although many layers of defence lie
between hazards and losses, there are flaws in each layer that, if
aligned, allow the crash to occur.
The model includes active and latent failures. Active failures
encompass unsafe acts directly linked to a crash, such as driver
error. Latent failures include contributory factors that lie dormant
for days, weeks or months, until they contribute to the accident.
Bald tyres, faulty lights, worn windscreen wipers, poor driving
skills or lack of self-discipline about drinking, drugs or fatigue
management contribute to latent failures that lie in the background
of driver behaviour.
I saw a good example on the Midland Highway recently. The car in
front was being driven erratically between 60 and 90 km/h. The
erratic driving produced the concertina effect in following traffic
that is so common in these circumstances. The driver was drinking
from a take-away coffee, eating and turning around to feed chips to
the children in the back. I found the courage to mention this when
we both pulled over in Campbell Town. Her response was ‘F#$@
Y%&!!! I wasn’t speeding!’ True, but her attention wasn’t always on
the road. One more factor could have had drastic consequences.
Crashes happen from a combination of circumstances that
culminate in a disaster. A long drive, tiredness, a dirty windscreen,
driving into the sun, changing a CD as a driver coming the other
way overtakes and doesn’t see the grey car against the grey of
the road – it’s a head-on just waiting to happen. Appreciation of
situational awareness would allow both drivers to recognise the
I’ve been there with a driver coming the other way, distracted by
talking into a mobile phone. I clearly remember a mouth open in
shock as I took evasive action. The clash of mirrors disintegrating
as we passed is burned into my memory.
If you want to stay alive, maintain situational awareness. Be
aware of your skills, competence and level of fatigue. Where is
the sun? How does it affect your vision and that of drivers coming
towards you? What colour car are you driving and what are the
weather conditions that affect visibility? Do you need headlights
on low-beam in daylight? During winter, is the road open to early
sunlight or are there patches of shade that delay the melting of ice?
Many factors must be evaluated. Pilots are trained to identify them,
but even so, crashes still happen in high-technology aircraft. How
much training in this area do drivers receive?
Situational awareness can be maintained using a simple tool
that helps crop-duster pilots stay alive. Unfortunately, some still
manage to run into wires they know are there. They just lost
situational awareness! The tool is called the Variable Focus Model.
Pilots scan continuously. Instruments, weather, environment and
personal performance cover the four basics. They switch between
a broad and narrow focus that considers internal and external
factors. Discipline keeps the scan going throughout a f light until
the wheels are chocked.
Focus shifts regularly between the four quadrants. With
self-discipline to maintain the scan, safety can be maximised. A
breakdown in discipline leaves the outcome open to random chance.
Tasmania Police personnel deal with the consequences on a regular
basis. Help them along a bit and maintain situational awareness.
Photo and interview: Mike Kerr
Jim Smith has quite a list of
reasons to celebrate his fifty
years as an RACT member.
On the motoring services side,
there’s the usual litany of dead
batteries and busted engines, along
with a spectacular and smoke-filled
story about a car that ground to a halt at the midpoint of the
Midland Highway. A phone call to RACT brought a tow truck
and a smoke-free ride all the way to Hobart.
What other RACT member services do you use?
Home insurance is an important one to us. When our
dishwasher blew a hose, it had poured boiling water across
three rooms before I could turn it off.
While the assessor was there in an hour, the f looring vinyl
couldn’t easily be replaced, so the insurance agreed to take it
up, dry both it and the floor, and then re-lay it. The job took
three months and it was done right.
And RACT Travel?
My wife and I have been to Europe twice using RACT
Travel's services. And we’ ll go again, preferably back to Italy,
just as soon as we can.
What’s your oddest travel story?
Using a sat-nav to guide us through an old town. The way
became very narrow with house walls either side, so narrow
we had to fold the mirrors in; even then, there were just
millimetres of space. But we had no choice but to go forward,
and eventually realised there was an actual road behind the
Your least favourite thing about Tasmanian drivers?
People who do not use their indicators and have no idea how
to use roundabouts.
Why did you join RACT in the first place?
Like so many people, my first car was second or third-hand,
and I needed to make sure someone had my back, someone
could help in the event of a breakdown. Now I have a reliable
and modern car, but I keep up that RACT membership.
What are you driving now?
A Subaru Liberty. I work for Total Kit Homes, so there’s
field work (literally field work!) across Tasmania, requiring
all-wheel drive. It’s perfect.
And as President of the Tasmanian Orchid Society I often
need the Subaru’s carrying capacity for plants and exhibit
materials. Again, perfect.
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2015 Journeys 9
IN OUR COMMUNITY
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