Driving always involves a level of risk. Federal and state governments have invested heavily in educating road users about the dangers of speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and distracted driving. Yet if we’re serious as a society about improving safety on our roads, we need to cultivate a shift in our attitudes.
The Victorian Government’s Towards Zero sets out a vision of creating a future free of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. While road safety has come a long way over the past few decades, this initiative aims to produce a permanent change in behaviour, reducing road deaths to below 200 by 2020 and reducing injuries by 15 per cent. Reducing the number of incidents on our roads to zero may seem ambitious, but small changes to your behaviour will help improve road safety for everybody.
What causes risky behaviour?
Speed limits and safety cameras help to regulate how fast people drive but it’s easy to become impatient. Speeding up to overtake another vehicle might help you reach your destination a little earlier but it puts other road users at risk. The same goes for using hands-free devices to make calls because some of your attention is no longer on the road. You need to consider your actions, balancing the need to answer a call or get somewhere quickly with the greater priority of arriving safely.
It’s important to proactively scan the road and consider your entire driving environment, identifying any potential hazards that pose a risk. Simple activities like failing to indicate before changing lanes or following the vehicle in front too closely may seem harmless, but you’re sharing the road with other drivers and now you’ve become a hazard for them to avoid.
It’s important to understand that road safety begins before you get into a vehicle. Assessing whether your vehicle is in fit condition to drive is one way to reduce the risk you pose to other road users. Attention to details like ensuring you have enough fuel to complete a journey, your windscreen is clear and nothing is obstructing your mirrors will improve your chances of arriving safely.
Once you’re on the road, you need to consider how you’re using your vehicle in conjunction with other vehicles. Journey management will further reduce your risk. You need to be aware of more than just the speed you’re travelling at – taking breaks every two hours, monitoring changing traffic conditions and removing any unnecessary distraction will limit the risk you pose to others. In order to effectively manage your journey you need to be aware of where you’re planning to stop to take a break, as well as all alternative rest stops in case you become ill or overly tired. External factors including accidents, road works and changing weather conditions are also potential hazards that need to be factored into your journey.
Driving cultural change starts with understanding your own actions. All road users want to arrive safely but it’s time to stop making excuses and justifying dangerous actions for short-term gain. Most road safety incidents could easily be avoided but significant change will only come if we commit to it at individual, organisational and societal levels.