How to solve car accidents forever

James Coleman 10 May 2021 62
Dented vehicle

The results of a T-bone: a written-off car and a hyper-vigilant driver. Photo: James Coleman.

In September last year, the speed limit on Sutton Road was dropped from 100 km/h to 80, and in the last couple of weeks, the signs have been bowled over in protest. New signs are being installed and fingers are crossed these won’t suffer the same fate.

At about 11:45 pm on the night of 24 November 2018, a car speared into a tree along this road, killing both men inside.

At about 12:35 pm on 8 August 2019, a head-on collision occurred. Both vehicles caught fire and a man died at the scene. A woman was hospitalised.

This popular stretch between Queanbeyan and the Federal Highway has seen five fatalities and 17 injuries in the last seven years. Following a review of the situation and a comparison with the NSW Speed Zoning Guidelines, Transport for NSW has opted for the ‘speed kills’ fix.

This response holds that reducing speed reduces fatalities.

The good news is this will genuinely help. It has to – it’s basic physics. And it’s not like it will make your commute noticeably longer either. A government spokesperson has estimated the reduced speeds will add 90 seconds to the trip for the average driver, or the time it takes to walk into the office at the other end.

But it won’t fix the real problem, one that goes much further than Sutton Road.

A knocked over speed sign on Sutton Road

One of the many 80 km/h speed signs that have been knocked over on Sutton Road. Photo: Zac Hay.

My wife and I were involved in a T-bone accident last month. A ‘STOP’ sign marked the intersection, so the other driver obediently stopped and looked. I looked at him and registered that he had registered me. All was well until it wasn’t, and he plunged into the side of our car with that unforgettable crunch.

All of this unfolded below 30 km/h. All speed would have done is make it worse.

I’m sure you get where I’m going with this. Speed kills, but more to the point, inattention and carelessness and selfishness kills. I’m sure you also get that because it’s impossible to put a figure on these and they’re nearly as impossible to police.

But it always comes up whenever speed limits are discussed: how we should only consider raising speed limits if Learners and P-platers received better training, or if we were more like drivers in the UK and Europe who don’t jump queues or sit in the fast lane or breath down the necks of other cars.

To hold a Provisional driver’s licence in the ACT, you must be at least 17 years old, have held an ACT Learner licence for at least six months, and either passed a one-off assessment or been through the whole competency approach with an accredited driving instructor.

For those who hop into the driver’s seat whenever Dad needs something from Bunnings, this is pretty relaxed. And so for those getting their Ls after 1 January 2021, this was changed to include a logbook.

Car on wet race track

Driver training in progress at Wakefield Park race track, near Goulburn. Photo: James Coleman.

Now, drivers under 25 years of age are required to complete 100 supervised driving hours, including 10 at night, with drivers 25 years of age or older required to complete 50 supervised driving hours, including five at night.

Is this better? Maybe, but it still doesn’t address attitude. This is where the crash comes in, because I can confirm it definitely helps.

I’ve lost count of the number of intersections I’ve driven up to since that awful evening, my head popping out of the windscreen like a prairie dog’s, scouting for any possible dangers. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I like to think the experience has made me a better, more cautious, more observant driver.

However, for obvious reasons, the end doesn’t justify the means here. Crashing your car still isn’t recommended.

So do the opposite instead and book a spot in a defensive-driving course. Many companies offer these across the capital region, including just off Sutton Road at the Sutton Road Driver Training Centre. These usually start at about $250 for the day.

You’ll be safer; motorists around you will be safer.

Or here’s another one (I would say it’s cheaper but not sure it works out that way in the end): have a child. Nothing like precious cargo to have you acting like the owner of the proverbial china shop the bull got into.

What's Your Opinion?

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62 Responses to How to solve car accidents forever
Frank Landolina Frank Landolina 8:12 pm 13 May 21

Grammar check hates me.

Drivers have been dumbed down with all this low speed strategy.

Better driver training and improved roads would also help.

Too many speed cameras set up for revenue rather than safety.

Frank Landolina Frank Landolina 7:58 pm 13 May 21

We have funded down drivers with all the low speed limits.

Europe has a different approach and wh

Jon Rooks Jon Rooks 5:25 pm 12 May 21

From what I've seen, drivers going at excessive speeds generally are going so fast they demonstrably have no regard for speed limits. Sad to say, but reducing speed limits isn't going to address that problem.

Steven Campbell Steven Campbell 8:45 am 12 May 21

Reducing posted speed limit is simply government’s way of running away from their responsibilities.

Laws are only as effective as your ability to enforce them.

Having lower speed limit means nothing to the people who breaks them.

Finally Relented Finally Relented 7:31 am 10 May 21

Finally. This constant reduction of speed is ridiculous. Could go back to horse and cart. Then no car accidents. Inattention and selfishness is absolutely the problem. Great, log your 100 hours. Doesn’t do anything for the attitudes. Compulsory defensive driving course sounds like a good idea. Bring back the test (create jobs too!!) . Rewarding good drivers sounds good too…from someone with no speeding ticket or accident. Loving many of the comments!

Les Eite Les Eite 6:25 am 10 May 21

Driving coarse for everyone. Most of drivers don’t look past there car bonnets I was trained to look as far as you can and spot potential hazards 35 years of driving and no car accidents works for me and driving to conditions all of this is life saving not speed. If you are shown how to react then your chances of survival are very high. People die because they don’t know how to react

    Finally Relented Finally Relented 7:37 am 10 May 21

    Me too...and no tickets. We had to take a test...

Alex Petrow Alex Petrow 9:03 pm 09 May 21

Easy Purgy!!

Double the speed limit. Because you will be on the road for half the time, the window for prangs is also halved!!


Jason Thornthwaite Jason Thornthwaite 8:04 pm 09 May 21

So much focus on bad driving, how about rewarding good driving #cheaper rego for good driving

    Jason Thornthwaite Jason Thornthwaite 8:06 pm 09 May 21

    Good driving= no parking fines, no speeding fines, no accidents...pretty simple, but a positive amongst all these negative comments

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:12 pm 09 May 21

It’s not just about (road) speed and the other standard explanations – anyone who was listening carefully would have heard a stunning revelation recently from the AFP about the role of drug use in ACT road fatalities.

Craig Beamish Craig Beamish 4:01 pm 09 May 21

Switched off drivers are the biggest causes of accidents AND driver aggression.

So many numpties who decide to turn off their brain the moment they put their key in the ignition. Address that first and most of the accidents will stop.

Only fools think that it's all because of speed.

    Nick Savino Nick Savino 5:00 pm 09 May 21

    Creg Bemish it’s excessive speed as well no matter how focused you if u doing 70 in a 60 zone and you can’t stop before you hit a person

    Who steps out unexpectedly good luck in court

    Gerald Varley Gerald Varley 5:16 pm 09 May 21

    I reckon you're both right! Excessive speed certainly contributes to accidents and their severity. But I think the general lack of situational awareness is also very dangerous. That's pretty common wherever one drives around city and suburban areas. (And a free plug if I may? Why don't people use their indicators in car parks?)

    Michael Wallace Michael Wallace 6:19 pm 09 May 21

    Creg Bemish mandatory speed limit 5kmh everywhere including highways that way we can stay safe though our Amazon orders will take months and uber eats will arrive in days not hours lol what a stupid suggestion. Increase the demerits points and loose of licence for stupid things like people in the wrong for T boning or running up the back of people and suddenly it'll drop.

    Craig Beamish Craig Beamish 6:38 pm 09 May 21

    Michael Wallace also the penalty system. Instead of a fine, they have to pay for and do an advanced/defensive driver course. Don't just slap them, teach them. Stupid government

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 3:27 pm 09 May 21

In Germany it costs about €5000 to get your driver’s license due to the testing fees and compulsory driving instructor lessons.

Doug Jackson Doug Jackson 12:46 pm 09 May 21

I believe if we went back to the practice of having somebody walking in front of a car holding red flags in front will likely also reduce accidents to zero.

The problem isn't able to be solved by changing a number on a sign. It needs to be solved by removing people from the equation.

The sooner we have reliable autonomous driving the safer society will be.

Tony Mills-Thom Tony Mills-Thom 12:46 pm 09 May 21

Reductio ad absurdum! If you reduce the speed limit to zero, you will eliminate road accidents! Pick another road safety fallacy!!

Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 12:38 pm 09 May 21

Speed doesn't kill... the sudden stop does..

John Brinsmead John Brinsmead 12:34 pm 09 May 21

You do realise that there are a significant number of road users out there who consider that the act of giving way to another road user is unaustralian

Rod Phillips Rod Phillips 12:12 pm 09 May 21

I find it strange that people think that reducing the speed in itself is the answer to reducing accidents and fatalities that my result from them. Yes going slower results in less damage if there is an accident. The fact is that excess speed, road conditions, experience and fatigue are usually greater contributors to accidents than people DOING the posted speed limit. Reducing the limit on roads like Sutton road is frustrating to all the drivers who actually were doing the right thing.

Jube Mann Jube Mann 12:00 pm 09 May 21

Ban Bogans, Tradies, truckies and southsiders from driving, 80% of accidents reduced. Source: YouTube

B-rad McDonell B-rad McDonell 11:45 am 09 May 21

Automation is the ultimate solution. Takes attitudes out of the equation completely.

Luke Juratowitch Luke Juratowitch 11:19 am 09 May 21

Have to stop using speed as a tactic. Having a bunch of cars going slow in a short span of road causes more congestion thus increasing the risk for accidents.

    Chris Emery Chris Emery 3:29 pm 09 May 21

    Luke Reeves Slowing down can increase the capacity of a road.

    Luke Juratowitch Luke Juratowitch 3:32 pm 09 May 21

    Chris Emery increased capacity means higher chance of collision. With modern technology and the safety of vehicles, there's no excuse. Canberra is actually good, there are signposted 60kph suburban roads you don't really see in NSW. If the ACT were like NSW, Sulwood drive for example would be 50 instead of 80.

    Better speeds, better flow, increased capacity because they're not congested, and less chance of a collision because people are getting where they need rather than accumulating on roads.

    Rather get to where i'm going safely at reasonable speed, than be slowed down, forced bumper to bumper. It's basic maths, the more cars there are on a given stretch of road, the higher chance for collision.

    Chris Emery Chris Emery 4:14 pm 09 May 21

    Luke Reeves Not if they are stationary.

    Luke Juratowitch Luke Juratowitch 4:19 pm 09 May 21

    Chris Emery And what's the point of being stationary when you're on the road to go somewhere?

    You don't get it. Waste of time explaining it lol.

    Have a good one. Drive safe, and don't accumulate too many drivers behind you when you drive slow.

    Finally Relented Finally Relented 7:35 am 10 May 21

    Shhhhh...They see this, sulwood will be 50 tomorrow!!!

Ben Jones Ben Jones 10:58 am 09 May 21

How about a police presence on the roads ....

Narh. More speed vans instead.

    Chris Emery Chris Emery 3:29 pm 09 May 21

    Ben Jones More unmarked police cars would work.

    Ben Jones Ben Jones 3:43 pm 09 May 21

    Chris Emery for revenue raising yes. Is that why they want or are we trying to save lies ?

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