Dangerous drivers can often be typecast as younger men hooning around our suburbs. But conversations need to discuss older people and the risks they pose on our roads as well.
That was one aim of a recent roundtable on dangerous driving in the ACT, bringing together police, government and academics to discuss what strategies are working, which ones aren’t, and what needs to be put in place to change motorist behaviour.
Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury said criminal drivers were the main focus of the meeting, where the usual penalties and consequences weren’t stopping their behaviour.
“[This cohort] don’t care about that, they simply are pursuing other activities, they’re involved in criminal behaviour – they’re driving unlicensed, they’re driving stolen vehicles. So many of the rules that would apply to an average rules-following citizen don’t apply to this cohort of people, and this is our particularly difficult group,” he said.
“More frighteningly, [many are] doing it to put on social media to impress their mates. This is a trend, a new and emerging trend, but one we have to be really conscious of.”
The roundtable group was interested in examining potential interventions to put in place either when a person was in prison or when they were leaving to decrease the chances of them re-offending.
Mr Rattenbury said one interesting piece of information from ACT Policing’s Operation TORIC was the age range of some repeat offenders.
“We’ve got offenders in their 30s and 40s, you’d sort of think they’d have grown up by this point, but they are continuing to be involved in really dangerous driving behaviour,” he said.
“There’s no single type of person and no single response that will deliver the response we’re after.”
Mr Rattenbury said there was also a need for clearer education for young people about the consequences of their actions on the road.
“Young people just don’t appreciate the level of risk – they think they’re invincible, they think they can get away with it. [But] they don’t have the experience to understand the risk parameters,” he said.
It’s an area of interest for behavioural scientist Dr Oleksandra Molloy.
She said research showed about 90 per cent of young drivers weren’t aware they were speeding, while they also projected the invincibility belief they had about themselves onto those around them.
“So bringing that focus to individual self and stating ‘I want to be a better driver’ can change the focus and save lives of many young drivers,” Dr Molloy said.
She advocated for a more proactive approach to education around dangerous driving, rather than a reactive one when a serious crash did occur.
“Showing the consequences of dangerous behaviour and bringing it to the attention of young drivers, and all drivers, is a good approach but we need to do more to change the behaviour,” Dr Molloy said.
“We need to focus on developing the basics, the knowledge and skills, to prepare and prevent any behaviours we may see in terms of dangerous driving.
“It is not easy, however it is potentially achievable to reduce the number of accidents and to save many people’s lives.”
It’s not just the people intentionally engaging in dangerous driving behaviours we need to be thinking about on our roads.
Associate Professor and ACT Road Safety Advisory Board member Vanita Parekh said conversations needed to talk about older drivers in the community, and how underlying medical conditions and prescribed medications could make them unsafe on the road.
“Things like vision, medical conditions, your ability to have a quick reaction time, your ability to be able to split your attention between different tasks,” she said.
“Also about looking at your insight [as a driver] – do you feel comfortable driving, should you be driving at night, should you be self-restricting your driving to your local area.
“It’s all of those things that are critical to safe driving, it’s not age related.”
She said families needed to speak with their loved ones about when it would be appropriate for them to reduce their driving, and what other supports could be put in place.
“It’s a very difficult conversation to have, but I think it’s one [you] need to start to have now,” A/Prof. Parekh said.
The roundtable will inform the development of the ACT’s new Road Safety Action Plan, with a road transport penalties review also underway.
More reforms around driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol are expected to be introduced before the end of the year.