Page 751 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 29 March 2006

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Figures I have received from the Department of Urban Services indicate that the total number of on-road crashes in 2005 was 7,100, compared to 7,275 in 2004 and 8,288 in 2003. The continued decline in the overall number of on-road crashes indicates to me that the work undertaken by government and police has not been in vain and that the careful driving of the majority of the community is resulting in a continuing trend of fewer crashes in the ACT.

What we are seeing as a common contributing factor in road crashes is a lack of concentration and attention from road users caused by distractions from both inside and outside the vehicle. Driver inattention is largely preventable. Recent studies indicate that sources of distraction vary between age groups. For example, adjusting the radio or CD is common among 20-year-olds. Other occupants in a car—for example, children—are a frequent source of distraction for 20 to 29-year-olds. Finally, among those aged 65 and older, outside objects and events are commonly a cause of distraction.

I believe that all Assembly members would agree with me that keeping ACT roads safe is a shared community responsibility. Each individual in charge of a vehicle, be it a car, truck, motorcycle or bicycle, needs to maintain peak alertness whilst on the road, as indeed do pedestrians. The range of road safety measures required to achieve lower crash injury and death rates needs to include the community. Through road safety partnerships, we need to work to change attitudes and make unsafe behaviours on our roads socially unacceptable if not unthinkable.

Over recent years the government has introduced several measure to provide a safer environment on the road. These include the introduction of the 50 kilometres an hour default speed limit, additional fixed red-light and speed cameras at known dangerous intersections, an expansion of the mobile speed-camera fleet and the declaration of further locations on arterial and major roads from which the mobile cameras will check motorists speeds. Most critical of all is the introduction of school-based driver education through the learner licence road ready program and road ready plus course for provisional drivers. It is education, not punishment alone, that leads to attitude change and safer road users.

The tragic loss of five pedestrians on ACT roads last year also highlights the need for people crossing roads to return to basics and follow some simple and straightforward principles such as looking both ways, always using designated crossings, obeying traffic signals and wearing light colours or reflective clothing when walking at dusk or in the evening.

The Australasian Centre of Policing Research undertook an environmental scan, published in 2004, to identify areas that represent particular road safety problems. The problem areas that emerged from the ACT data are that people aged between 20 and 24 were the single most vulnerable age group, accounting for nearly 14 per cent of all casualties in the ACT. The most frequent accident type in the ACT is the rear-end collision. Around nine per cent of vehicle occupants report that they do not wear a seatbelt. About 68 per cent of ACT drivers report that they regularly exceed the speed limit by 10 kilometres an hour or more. Around nine per cent of drivers indicate that they have driven when possibly over the 0.05 blood alcohol limit.

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