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Journeys : Dec 2012 Jan 2013
distance (about 75 metres) as the distracted driver can stop from 654. Of course, the period of inattention could be significantly longer than two seconds, with even greater consequences. Just as the Virginia study found that the vast majority of accidents and near misses involved inattention, I suggest it is the crucial factor in most of those single vehicle and head on crashes on our country roads. Failure to watch the road for just two seconds provides more than enough time to cross the centre line or drop a wheel off the road, and if your subsequent, startled reaction is incor rect a crash is very likely. This suggests that the level of driver alertness is much more important than speed. The danger of inattention is perhaps the most important road safety message of all, yet it ranks far behind speed, alcohol and fatigue in government advertising and road safety literature5. It should be at the centre of our road safety campaigns. Conversely, the focus on speed limits and enforcement is greatly overdone. We are constantly told that a reduction of just 5 km/h causes a major reduction in crash risk, and cur rent enforcement policies penalise such tiny infraction s of speed limits. It is certainly tr ue that the consequences of an accident are worse at higher speeds; the Power Model6 widely used by gover nments says that 90 is safer than 100, but also says that a further reduction to 80 would double the safety benefit, so why stop at 90? This kind of modelling tells us nothing about the causes of accidents or what the speed limit should be. The DIER strategy suggests that many rural roads are not capable of supporting a 100 km/h limit. Yet, with the exception of freeway style roads, any country road or highway, whether it meets DIER criteria or not, will have twisty or other wise hazardous sections that will not support 100 and straights and other sections where 100 is quite safe in the right conditions. No speed limit replaces the requirement for drivers to judge when they need to slow dow n for a particular section of road. All drivers are responsible to drive their vehicles safely at speeds appropriate for the conditions at the time. Speed limits are necessary, but limits that are set too low frustrate and penalise the vast majority of safe and respon sible drivers, discourage proper levels of driver responsibility and alertness, and lead to disrespect for the law and law enforcement. About 80 percent of infringements are for less than 10 km/h over the limit while only one percent are for more than 25 km /h over the limit7. Surely a war ning rather than a fine would be more appropriate and just as effective for all those minor offences, as well as freeing gover nment from claims of revenue raising? Speed limits on our r ural roads should not be reduced. Instead, let's emphasise that driving remain s one of the most potentially dangerous things we do, and there is no excuse for failing to give it our complete, undivided attention. 1 Non-Urban Road Network Strategy, September 2012, DIER, Tasmanian Government 2 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), 10 June 2005 http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2005/06/2005-834.html 3 Wang, Knipling, and Goodman, 1996 4 National Motorists Association -- reaction time and braking performance calculator, http://www.aussiemotorists.com/braking/index.htm 5 For example, see Tasmanian Road Rules, 8 Apr 11, on the DIER website, which has one paragraph on inattention after all the other safety information 6 Nilsson, G. (2004A). Traffic safety dimensions and the Power Model to describe the effect of speed on safety. Bulletin 221. Lund Institute of Technology, Department of Technology and Society, Traffic Enginering, Lund 7 Victorian Government figures for FY2011/12 accessed on 29 Sep 12 at http://www.camerassavelives.vic.gov.au/home/statistics/fines+by+category/speeding+categories/ Member in focus Why did you join the RACT? I have insurance with R ACT so it made sense to get Roadside assistance with them also. And because we like to travel on the mainland it means I don't have to worry if something breaks dow n in the car. I know we will get help. What's the most memorable time you've been helped by being a member of the RACT? On our first time travelling on the mainland we were on our way to Brisbane and we broke dow n and had to be towed for 80 kilometres. But in all this time of being a member, I think this is maybe the only time we've ever needed help. Tell me about your current car. A turbo Nissan Silvia. I bought it after selling my race car. Do you have any stickers on your car? Yes, AZ Customer Performance Fabrication. What is your biggest motoring gripe? Wildlife on roads. After the family photos, what is your most precious material possession, the thing you would try to grab if there was ever a fire? My brand new iPhone5. I've just bought it today. I've never ow ned a phone before so it feels pretty special. What is your most memorable holiday moment? Spending time with my family on beaches in Queensland and teaching my children how to swim. It was great hanging out with extended family and enjoying the sun shine and beaches with them. What about your favourite holiday destination? Wherever there are clear skies, warm water, nice beaches and my lovely wife. Where do you plan to spend your next holiday? Most likely the Sunshine Coast in Queensland because it ticks all the boxes for a good holiday! Rob Jansen is a teacher who enjoys sports. He lives in Hobart and has been a member of the RACT for about 20 years. Do you have a motoring gripe? Please tell us about it on the RACT Community Blog -- you'll find it at www.ract.com.au/blog December 2012 / January 2013 11 In our community
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