Will the Towards Zero summit help reduce lives lost on NSW roads?

February 24, 2020 3:23 am Published by

Will the Towards Zero summit announced on the weekend go far enough to help reduce the number of lives lost on NSW roads?

It appears from media reports the proposed Towards Zero Summit will be an encore presentation of last week’s Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Stockholm including many of the same cast. Why have driver educators, such as ourselves, apparently been excluded from the forthcoming summit?

Unless discussions at that summit take in education for all drivers, riders and pedestrians – then actual results will never occur.

As far back as 2016, we appeared before StaySafe, calling for more to be done with driver education and training.  Reviewing driver knowledge and skills should be just as important as examining more changes to speed limits.

As a career driver and driver educator, any changes to our laws that can reduce the number of crashes that kill or injure people on our roads is welcomed.

Law enforcement and better engineered roads and vehicles are just part of the solution. We all need to acknowledge people can and do make mistakes on our roads. Many of these are dealt with by police and the courts, while others are dealt with by panel beaters.

It is well documented driving a motor vehicle is the most dangerous thing a person will do.

The current NSW Road Safety Plan 2021 talks about developing “a new partnership framework for road safety advocates, community and commercial road safety education providers, including by reviewing driver training courses offered in NSW.”

Wouldn’t it be better to complete action items like this rather than replacing them with newer and even more distant goals?

That is why it is crucial this forthcoming summit examine driver education in NSW.

The Inquiry Into The National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 concluded the cost of road crashes to the community is over $30 billion a year.

As the family of anyone injured in a crash will tell you, you can’t even begin to put a price on the emotional cost of caring for a loved one.

The process of learning to drive should not just fall to parents who do the best they can and mix that in with some driving lessons as the practical test draws closer.

As a community, we need to do more about ensuring NSW drivers and riders have more knowledge and the skills they need to make smarter choices on the road.

Driving is a skill for life. Skills must be practiced. Sportspeople like Tiger Woods, Ellyse Perry, Lewis Hamilton or Cameron Smith didn’t get to where they are without countless hours of training and practice.

Driving is the same.   Unless you practice and get the foundation techniques right, you are potentially setting yourself up to fail in the long term.

Businesses that require people to drive as part of their job also need to do their part and make sure that workers have the requisite skills and attitude to represent their businesses safely and professionally when driving because road crashes are the leading cause of workplace deaths in this country.

The current Road Safety Plan 2021 calls for zero road deaths and serious injuries by 2056; that is over eight election cycles away. Human lives can’t wait.

I challenge the Towards Zero Summit to produce short and medium-term deliverables so change can start now.

It will take decades to engineer safe roads and safe vehicles is a long way off given the age of the Australian vehicle fleet. Changing the attitudes and behaviour of road users would, therefore, be a great place to start.