How to solve car accidents forever

James Coleman 10 May 2021 65
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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65 Responses to How to solve car accidents forever
Michael Ilsley Michael Ilsley 9:08 am 09 May 21

It's usually the pedestrian on their phone or just stepping out not looking properly. Changing odd speed limits like 30,50,70, and 90 to the usual 60,80, and 100 so you can concentrate would be a much better idea.

    Gerry Satrapa Gerry Satrapa 9:30 am 09 May 21

    Michael Ilsley ‘usually’? Every ACT fatality this year has been driver/rider, with speed almost always ‘a factor’(either immediately recognised or suggested by police reminders in media releases).

    In the most recent fatality- the driver at fault was caught travelling at over 60kmh above the limit prior to hitting the victims car from behind.

    Michael Ilsley Michael Ilsley 9:36 am 09 May 21

    Gerry Satrapa Speed reduction won't or doesn't work. Our education process of young drivers is appalling, it's a right of passage for a P plater to drive like a maniac. Look at the driving education system in Finland, don't penalise the majority.

    Paul Vohradsky Paul Vohradsky 9:57 am 09 May 21

    Gerry regardless of the driver doing the speed limit. Speed is listed as a cause. If the car was doing zero there would be no accidents.

    Bring back horses

    Jason Moore Jason Moore 10:11 am 09 May 21

    Paul Vohradsky you are correct - and it distorts the statistics, and the media reporting, and thus the remediation strategy…..

Shayne Borger Shayne Borger 9:08 am 09 May 21

Canberra the entitled...i must be first street race track

    Dean Thomas Dean Thomas 9:35 am 09 May 21

    Shayne Borger

    Unless there is a corner cause most of them can't do corners 😜

Mark Monterosso Mark Monterosso 9:23 am 09 May 21

Not sure that's what physics are?

    Steve Frame Steve Frame 9:40 am 09 May 21

    Mark Monterosso So, mass and the impact of inertia at increased speeds are not physics?

    Mark Monterosso Mark Monterosso 10:50 am 09 May 21

    Steve Frame in relation to the statement. Physics doesn't prove less fatalities.

    Steve Frame Steve Frame 10:54 am 09 May 21

    Slower speeds, less impact, less likely to die

    Mark Monterosso Mark Monterosso 11:34 am 09 May 21

    Steve Frame not disagreeing with that sentiment that it can contribute, but exactly the same crash at the same speed doesn't mean the same result for the people in the car. Same circumstances even faster won't mean a fatality. I thought the statement was strange. Probably should have said "that's common sense" instead.

Jeffrey Brown Jeffrey Brown 9:31 am 09 May 21

Obtaining drivers licence in the ACT need to be more strict. No more cereal box surprises. More driver education.

JimCharles JimCharles 9:40 am 09 May 21

I think the UK and Europe drive faster than Australia, with more cars on narrower roads, common on-street parking and more distractions with the denser mainly urban population and very busy roads with far more stopping, starting, lane changes and complex traffic systems. But they have less accidents per capita?
Better education is needed in Australia as congestion increases, more understanding of speed and better judgement of distance, learning how to drive in the rain, road manners, road courtesy, technical control, reaction times, observation, indicating, learning to drive with the traffic flow and maintaining speed that is not way under the speed limit, and moving out of the way for faster vehicles (it’s no driver’s responsbility to try and control other drivers by trying to uphold speed limits on behalf of the police…just get out of the way and let the nutters go). There will be a natural skill improvement as the driving environment becomes more complex, but there is also the Canberra problem of lots of overseas drivers from countries with dreadful road safety records being allowed to transfer licenses when they really need to take another test.

    JC JC 6:44 pm 09 May 21

    The maximum speed in the UK is 70mph which is 113km/h. This applies on motorways and A roads built to motorway standards designated as A (M) roads.

    Roads similar to our single carriageway highways the speed limit is 60mp/h which is about 97km/h.

    So round one up one down UK speed limits are much the same as here. Speed limits in built up areas also convert to figures similar to what we see here in Australia.

    Parts of Europe do have higher limits with motorway speeds of up to 130km/h and of course there are the German Autobahns.

    As for accidents per capita and comparing to Australia it’s not quite that simple. We drive more and we drive longer distances per capita which would impact per capita figures. For true comparison you would have to look at accidents per km driven, but even then that wouldn’t be a true representation due to population density etc. with more open road driving here and more city driving in Europe.

Paul Vohradsky Paul Vohradsky 9:55 am 09 May 21

What a joke. Reducing speed doesn’t stop incompetent drivers.

Just another indication of the ACTs hatred of cars.

Kirsty Noad Kirsty Noad 9:55 am 09 May 21

As a driver I'm deeply concerned with the driving behaviour and seemingly attitude of many people in Canberra. I will certainly say it's not the majority but I cannot leave my house point A to point B without seeing at least one person doing something noticeably wrong. It is a choice when you speed up to overtake someone just coming out of a roundabout to cut them off when it quickly returns to one lane. It's a choice to drive so close up the back of someone that it would appear as though I'm towing them from a certain angle. It's a choice to speed slightly or excessively, speed signs or not. So my assessment is that it's attitude, this attitude is either entitlement/ arrogance or a challenge to get a car length ahead of someone?? I'm from Victoria. They have had the log book for L plate drivers for years, brilliant idea that Canberra has only introduced it now, blows my mind. There is barely visible police presence on the roads and it seems it takes a lot for you to lose your licence. Saying it might take a child as precious cargo to change their attitudes, I hope they never have a child in the car!!!

    Roderick Saunders Roderick Saunders 8:22 pm 09 May 21

    Kirsty Noad Canberra's had the log book assessment system for years. I think you only needed 20 hrs with an accredited driving instructor when I did it.

    Finally Relented Finally Relented 7:43 am 10 May 21

    Only "at least one"? Up that to at least 3....as soon as you're on the road, regardless of where you are. Log book great. Like the idea of defensive driving course. How about including visits to car accident victims as a part of this for a reality check. And repeat yearly for first 5 years of driving. Bring the test back too. .reward good drivers. Etc etc

Owen Harris Owen Harris 10:12 am 09 May 21

By that logic if you don’t drive no one dies. Fix the drivers. Make it harder to get a full licence, keep people on ps longer. and make it easier to lose licences for poor driving. 40km zone on Barry drive is a joke

Neil Chandler Neil Chandler 10:13 am 09 May 21

Speed limits only reduce road fatalities if they are actually followed. 2 of the 4 fatal accidents in the ACT this year involved one of the drivers travelling well over the posted speed limit. I agree with the author that defensive driver training is valuable - why not make it part of the curriculum to get a license in the first place? I got my Ps in the NT when we had open speed limits on the highway - the school funded lessons with a professional instructor and included some basic defensive driving techniques. I think this is far more effective than requiring x number of hours of supervised driving with someone who isn't a qualified instructor who may just be passing on bad habits!

    Daniel Bundy Saunders Daniel Bundy Saunders 11:08 am 09 May 21

    Neil Chandler Ah yes, DTAL; I thought it was great that you could get your Ls at 15 and 9 months, but I didn’t want to do a full semester of driver training so I went direct to the MVR and was on my Ps the day after my 16th, by 3 days after my 16th I had my Ps; then I was let lose in the open speed limit........................ Driver training is critical; I’m happy to teach people, I’ll even do some basic defensive driving, but somebody who is trained to teach usually makes a better teacher

Maria Greene Maria Greene 10:16 am 09 May 21

Did a defensive driving course many years ago. The best part is you are taught to assume there is a hazzard ahead and plan accordingly.

Nick James Nick James 10:19 am 09 May 21

In Germany it’s bloody tough to get your licence. So they let them drive like adults when they do.

Paul Irving Paul Irving 10:20 am 09 May 21

Driver aggression by a very small number of rev-heads in Canberra results in excessive speed, tailgating, unindicated lane changing, red light running, etc. These people see the rest of the law-abiding traffic as obstacles and toad blocks. Some of the comments on this thread provide evidence of the attitude. .

    Christopher Darling Christopher Darling 11:29 am 09 May 21

    Paul Irving I see way more regular people in their Mazda 3’s or tradies in Ford Rangers zooming past, cutting through traffic, behaving in an all round dangerous manner. Take your blinkers off and remove your prejudice against “rev-heads” and you’ll find that the irresponsible and dangerous behaviour on ACT roads is far more prevalent than you acknowledge.

    Dan Backhouse Dan Backhouse 1:17 pm 09 May 21

    Paul Irving not limited to rev heads, just people with anger management issues. When driving, I control my anger, my anger doesn't control me.

Ganesh Suppiah Ganesh Suppiah 10:25 am 09 May 21

Defensive driving courses maybe?

Topher Garlik Topher Garlik 10:32 am 09 May 21

Why do drivers have to speed up and cut you off to come into your lane ? why don't they drop there speed and come in behind ?

    Brad Rogers Brad Rogers 1:53 pm 09 May 21

    Topher Garlik if they've been waiting patiently for a while for you to keep left unless overtaking, then they'll generally do that, usually as a hint that doing 80km/h in the right lane of a 100km/h highway is wrong.

Grant Hunter Grant Hunter 10:50 am 09 May 21

In my current van, 3 yrs old, I have had 3 ladies not give way on my left and take out my left side. But please tell me more about how speed is the factor

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 ?

Luke Reeves Luke Reeves 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 Reeves Luke Reeves 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 Reeves Luke Reeves 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!!!

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

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

Jube Mann Jube Mann 12:00 pm 09 May 21

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

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.

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