27 October 2022

Is technology the solution to ending dangerous driving forever?

| Lottie Twyford
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Man blowing into interlock

Could mandatory interlocks in all vehicles stop driving under the influence? Photo: File.

As the road toll hits its highest point in more than a decade, stopping dangerous driving seems more difficult than ever.

An ongoing committee inquiry has heard technological advances like interlocks, speeding detection systems and more surveillance could be the key to safer roads.

But some are calling for caution and evidence.

Like many, Dr Rod Katz, who sits on the ACT Road Safety Board, became involved with road safety after the death of a friend.

He said criminal justice responses alone were not enough and the Territory should investigate a broad range of changes to vehicles, many of which are being introduced in Europe.

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This included mandatory dash cams or “black box” data logging, which could then be used to determine the facts of a specific incident.

“We need to capture evidence about what’s going on on our roads and we do that through dash cams, CCTV and data logging,” Dr Katz told the inquiry.

“That can make a huge difference and we can support our police teams.”

Speed detection device

ACT Policing are doing investigations of its own into new technology to stop dangerous driving in its tracks. Photo: ACT Policing.

Dr Katz said police could use this sort of technology to apprehend absconding drivers.

The use of “black box” technology was also supported by the Motorcycle Riders Association of the ACT.

ACT Policing is currently investigating Operation SNAP, an initiative from the Welsh police where the public can submit photographic and video submissions (most via dashcam) to the police of dangerous driving.

RoadsACT does have a network of road cameras installed at key intersections around the Territory, but these can only be used for traffic monitoring and the data is not stored, nor can it be provided to police after an incident.

Police have their own CCTV network as well.

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Dr Katz encouraged lawmakers to investigate the possibility of increasing the use of interlocks to prevent dangerous, impaired driving.

Interlocks disable a vehicle if the driver is found to be under the influence of alcohol or other illicit substances.

Currently, they are only installed after a person has been charged with driving under the influence.

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A further technological advance of interest was Intelligent Speed Adaption (ISA). This will be mandatory in new vehicles sold from July 2024.

It’s a system that provides feedback to the driver if the vehicle exceeds the speed limit by working with GPS and a speed zone database.

Feedback can include cascading noise, cascading vibrating, pushback from the accelerator and the car overriding the driver to slow down gently in some cases.

“Some of these warnings can be very annoying. It’s the sort of nudge you need if you’re 5 km/h over and you’re told just to bring it down,” he explained.

A NSW Government trial in 2010 found ISA was able to reduce speeding in 89 per cent of trial vehicles.

Dr Katz acknowledged the resource constraints on the Territory when it came to the implementation of this novel technology but said things could be done to the government fleet, for example.

Local company Seeing Machines is also building smart driving monitoring systems.

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Some are calling for some caution before moving full steam ahead with surveillance technology.

The ACT Council of Social Service, for example, has raised concerns about technology being used to target the most vulnerable community members.

ACTCOSS head of policy Dr Gemma Killen said they are not “alarmist” about all technological advances but a nuanced and evidence-based approach was necessary.

“Our concern across all technologies is that sometimes it leads to more bias and not less. We need an evidence base to suggest that isn’t happening,” Dr Killen told the inquiry.

“With data logging, we’d want to see proof that it wasn’t leading to more vulnerable people being targeted and that it was leading to a reduction in offences.”

ACTCOSS had particular issues with several items included on the police’s wishlist, including police wanting to attach GPS trackers to cars, the use of drones as surveillance items and automatic licence plate recognition.

A final day of dangerous driving public hearings will be held next month.

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Iva Pitchfork5:00 pm 08 Nov 22

This is Christine who likes to offer her words of wisdom. It appears to be she does so under an alias, being from Texas and all, and with no friends, and following Tanya Cheyne and Michael Petterssen, or maybe she is paid by them to work full time on lambasting anyone with a negative opinion on government policies. I wonder?

https://www.facebook.com/christine.stevens.3304673

KI_roadsafety1:34 pm 02 Nov 22

Technology is one dimensional Vision Zero and the safe systems approach both sit upon it. They will give us safer cars, safer roads, road systems and infrastructure but they were never designed to address road trauma as that requires 2 motivations + & – Driver incentives versus driver penalties sitting upon a foundation of science.
To have a safe driving environment for all we need to upgrade our current exclusively punitive driver management (DMS) toa compliance based DMS.

ChrisinTurner5:47 pm 30 Oct 22

The objective should be to get repeat offenders off the road. This could be done by doubling the demerit points and halving the fines. Combine this with more unmarked police cars to catch the idiots you and I see every day.

Steven Green4:43 pm 28 Oct 22

Search for Waymo. The Waymo driver has driven over 20 million miles on public roads in the USA with only one at-fault accident that resulted in no injuries.

Technology might be useful but it will be many years before many cars have been fitted to meet that standard. My car, like many, has a speed limiting function – except it lets the car go more than 5kph over the set limit. So, despite have the tech, I can be booked by the vigilant camera network. Luckily, the speedo shows 3-5kph under the real speed. I’ll believe the ACT Govt is serious when they put speed readouts on the radar vans.

Is technology the solution to ending dangerous driving forever? No, not really. Just a human that uses their brain instead of their stupid behaviour.

luv_this_city12:22 pm 28 Oct 22

It seems odd to me that you cant report dangerous driving to AFP online, BUT you can if it is a collision. You can also reports events, parties and petrol drive offs.. Can the AFP please implement a dashcam upload capability, drivers ‘might’ drive safely if they know the public can and will report, currently too hard. Footage might only result in a warning but better than nothing

Considering the hacks that have been occurring recently, technology is obviously not the answer.

SigmaOctantis7:16 am 28 Oct 22

Self driving cars are coming whether you like it or not. Remove the human, remove the problem.

Steven Green3:00 pm 28 Oct 22

I totally agree. I’d love to see a pilot program to trail the use of autonomous robotaxis in Canberra.

One wrong line of code (by a human), well good luck with that

Steven Green4:41 pm 28 Oct 22

Search for Waymo. The Waymo driver has driven over 20 million miles on public roads in the USA with only one at-fault accident that resulted in no injuries.

Tools used to spy on people are invariably going to be used to persecute political enemies long before they will be used to for the intended purpose.

Journalists and protesters will be the first targets of GPS tracking and drone surveillance, while drug abusing friends of the blue will go their way unmolested with a pat on the back and some encouraging words about changing their ways.

Opt in systems like SNAP take the power out of police hands and reduce the opportunity for abuse or hacking.

As soon as this comes in we’ll end up with 20km/h speed limits for safety and automatic fines. Then vehicle theft will increase.

> Is technology the solution

The answer is almost always no.

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