Rural youth ponder road safety

27 Jul, 2006 07:00 PM
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A PROPOSAL to increase compulsory learner driving hours has gathered support from WA rural youth.

After more than 200 deaths on country WA roads in the past four years - many of them involving young people - the Road Safety Council conducted research into making driving safer for the 36,000 young drivers who hit WA streets each year for the first time.

The Novice Driver Review of 2005 made nine recommendations to the State Government.

A recommendation to increase supervised driving hours from 25 to 120 hours is the basis of a joint Education Department and Road Safety Office research and canvassing project called the Access and Equity Project.

Project coordinator Jodie-Anne Mak visited Narrogin and Corrigin last month to canvass students' and parents' views on the proposed supervised driving increases.

Mrs Mak met with Year 11-12 students at Narrogin Senior High School and the agricultural college, and with a Year 10 student and parent group at Corrigin District High School.

"It was a very successful trip and I received some very useful feedback from the students and parents about the proposed changes to the legislation," she said.

Mrs Mak looks forward to visiting the Kimberley and other country regions to compare the issues between the areas.

She said the access project targeted youth at risk of being unable to obtain the required amount of driving hours due to hardship or lack of vehicle or instructor/teacher.

Mrs Mak said research showed the minimum driving experience needed to reduce crash risk when first licensed was 120 hours.

Despite other Australian states requiring between 80-150 hours of supervised driving, WA only requires 25 hours.

"To date, Cabinet has endorsed the safety principles behind this recommendation but implementation won't be considered until appropriate access and equity programs are in place to support all new drivers in WA," Mrs Mak said.

Narrogin Senior High School students David Hobley, Scott Gray and Sarah Bolt participated in the access project with Ms Mak in June and said it was worthwhile.

David, 16, Nyabing, said he thought the 120-hour requirement was a good way for young drivers to get more experience but was concerned it could be an expensive exercise.

He said defensive driving courses should be compulsory so young drivers could cope better with handling the car or driving on gravel or in heavy traffic conditions.

David said he would not drink and drive after an acquaintance had died as a result of drink-driving.

Scott, 17, Kukerin, said the 120-hours proposal was over the top because most learners would find it hard to get that many hours supervised in a year.

"Plus there is the fuel price factor to consider," he said.

"The government is doing a good job trying to reduce the road toll and anymore restrictions would just make it too inconvenient for road users."

Scott said his whole community had been affected by the death of one of its own in a fatal car crash.

"I believe I have made sure I'm a safer driver because of all the deaths on the roads in the region lately," he said.

Mrs Mak said the Novice Driver Review recommendations were an opportunity to seriously save lives on WA roads.

Cabinet will consider the recommendations once the current consultations are finalised and collated.

The Road Safety Council spends about $6 million annually on road safety advertising and education in WA.

Rural people are specifically targeted through Belt Up campaigns, which are supported by rural football clubs.

Rural and regional service stations, mining companies, car rental companies and other retailers work with the council to tackle speeding, drink-driving, fatigue and other road risks in the country.

Road Safety Office research for the 10-year period between 1990 and 1999 shows some interesting trends.

More recent data was not yet available.

Nearly half of all injuries and deaths involving young people were attributable to road crashes.

Males were over-represented in the statistics, with 72pc of all road fatalities, and 60pc of serious injuries involving males.

Men aged 17-39 accounted for 43pc of the fatalities.

Alcohol and not wearing seatbelts were the two biggest factors causing crash deaths, with speed a close third factor.

Despite the widely held belief that utes and V8s are dangerous vehicles, the vehicle itself tended to have little bearing on crash statistics.

Sedans and hatches were involved in 65pc of deaths, utes in 7.4pc and articulated trucks in just 0.8pc of fatal crashes.

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