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Journeys : RACT MNJ June July 2010
In our community Despite a significant public education focus on issues such as speed and alcohol, it is in fact inattention that is the highest-reported contributing factor in Tasmanian casualty crashes. Many drivers can concentrate on the purpose of driving, rather than the task of driving itself, because it has become almost an automatic function, like walking. As the New Zealand Automobile Association writes in its Saving Ourselves discussion paper, 'People don't intend to be inattentive. What they don't know is how they end up being inattentive. This is due to inadequate information on how to recognise situations where the risk of a crash or being hit as a pedestrian is higher because of inattention.' 52-year R ACT member Graeme Bar wick pinned down the same issue in the August/September 2009 edition of Motor News Jo ur neys: 'Inattention needs addressing. A lot of coverage is given to mobile phones in cars, which is fair enough. However, drivers need to be educated about other distractions, such as using the CD player or sat-nav system while driving.' Can we uncover more pre-crash infor mation and identify more factors that lead to these sorts of crashes? The US-basedVirginia Tech Transportation Institute carried out a large-scale research project that involved putting video cameras, electronic sensors and other instruments in vehicles and recording around 3.2 million kilometres and 42,300 hours of driving over twelve months. The Virginia Tech 100-Car Naturalistic Study found that nearly 80 per cent of all crashes and 65 per cent of all near-crashes captured in the study involved driver inattention within three seconds of the onset of the conflict. It showed, among other things, that the rate of inattention- related crashes decreased dramatically as drivers get older. The incident rate was as much as four times higher for the 18 to 20 age group relative to older age groups. Drowsiness contributed to around 20 per cent of crashes. What the Virginia Tech study implies is that inattention is a bigger problem than we think -- and one that needs more examination than it's getting. The study argues that only relying on police-reported incidents has limitations: 'Drivers often do not remember specific details of a rapidly-occurring event. However, naturalistic studies overcome the obstacle of potentially-unreliable eyewitness crash accounts. For example, eyewitness accounts could include a driver or passenger who is in shock or injured, or someone who is trying to hide the details of what occurred (due either to embarrassment, fear of prosecution / litigation, or other reasons).' International research -- pay attention! The R ACT is working with the Australian Mobile Telecommunication s As sociation (AMTA) to bring one of the Virginia Tech study's authors, Dr Tom Dingus, to Australia (and possibly Tasmania) in the future to stimulate discussion on these issues. Dr Dingus has conducted tran sportation safety and human factors research since 1984. His research has included the safety and use of advanced in-vehicle devices, the development of crash avoidance technology, large-scale studies of driver behaviour and perfor mance, studies of truck driver fatigue and driver distraction and attention research. There'll be more infor mation in future editions of Motor News Journeys. See http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/story. php?itemno=834 for more details on the study. Summaries of Tasmanian casualty crash statistics are available at http:// w w w.tra nsport.ta s.gov.au/s afety/cra sh_ statistics The NZA A's discussion paper Saving Ourselves is on our website at http://w w w.ract.com.au/news_ and_ issues Vale -- Len Dix It is with great sadness that we record the passing on 8 March of former R ACT Launceston Manager, Len Dix. Len was appointed as R ACT District Manager in 1962 and held this position for 20 years until his retirement in January 1982. During this period, he oversaw the constr uction and fit-out of the R ACT's current Launceston office and the move from 113 George Street in 1974. Len also saw the introduction of many new R ACT ser vices including the finance ser vice for personal loans, mechanical and warranty vehicle inspection s and technical advice for members; building, contents and personal effects insurance; the opening of the Bur nie branch and the transfer of Head Office to the cor ner of Murray and Patrick Streets, Hobart. Between 1962 and 1982, there was a strong growth in membership, with 58,475 members joining the R ACT. Len worked exceptionally hard and one could always expect a cheery greeting and friendly chat. He often recalled with pride his ser vice in the RAN in World War II, when he saw active service in cor vettes. Len was highly regarded by all who knew him, both in business and within the R ACT and we convey our sincere condolences to his family. June / July 2010 8
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