Road vehicle collisions, trauma  and deaths.
The basic message of these pages: Government road safety programs are flawed by over-emphasis on speed,  unscientific use of speed cameras and enforcment effort too often mis-directed.  Programs should be aiming more by education to improve driver skills and behaviour thus reducing the thousands of careless "collision enhancing actions" that we see on our roads every day.  Actions that inevitably lead to costly damage, injuries and death.

Australian road death rates 1925-2002 First a quick look at the history of road  fatality statistics in Australia, data sourced from Commonwealth Transport Dept. web site, links below.  Now we are all well aware of the many repetitive media news items over the years bleating about the "road toll"  on this or that weekend or holiday period, quoting numbers that are seldom put in any context as to history or trend. The graph shows annual numbers of people killed on our roads from 1925 to 2002 and it is good to see that whether measured  per population, vehicles registered or kilometres driven, the death rates all show a decreasing trend.  Click on the graph for large image, click here for breakdown of deaths per population, state by state.  The NT is currently just under 30 so taken with the low ACT number and the good record for Victoria, a smaller state with relatively good roads, the graph suggests that road quality is an over-riding  factor affecting collision rates.
The left column of the table sets out a structure for viewing the complexity of vehicle collisions assuming of course that roads have safer localities and more dangerous localities, some cars are safer than others, weather and light varies, animals may run onto roads, trees may fall, truck loads might fall off,  but most importantly drivers vary in their ability & skill levels and also are subject to  varying physical & mental states caused by happenings in their lives.  So the left hand column points 1 to 6 assumes the 100,000 collision enhancing acts  happen against this background above of multiple varying  factors affecting road safety. Note I have not used the word "accident" because I contend the events are a matter of statistical probabilities with rates depending on various interlocking factors defining the conditions of the total road system, only the exact times, locations and participants are in doubt.
The right hand column sets out different ways society has evolved to take action to minimise road collisions and deaths.
Below the table I will comment on ways I believe the road collision / fatality rates can be reduced.

  Vehicle collisions relate in a sequence in this way.

Interventions by society to improve road safety
[1]   In  say a given week there are 100,000 collision enhancing acts  acts by drivers;
[2]   lets say this results in 10,000 close shaves, tyre squealing, heavy braking, swerving  etc;
[3]   there are 1,000 minor collisions where people are shaken up but not injured;
[4]   in 100 instances people are hospitalised with injuries from which they make a complete recovery;
[5]   in 10 cases injuries are so severe people are left with permanent impairment;
[6]   there is one death.

(note my use of the factor 10 between my classes 1 to 5 here is purely to illustrate my points, the real factor will be different of course. For example statistics on the Safer Roads site, see links below, suggest 100 may be a closer figure. If  I used 100 it makes my case better but the numbers get too large to read easily.) 
{A}   We test and licence drivers to prevent unskilled people from harming others.
{B}   Road rules or laws have evolved to exclude bad driving practises and to define a road environment conducive to safer vehicle operating.
{C}   New legal measures are introduced  such as compulsory seat belts, motor cycle helmets, blood alcohol limits, child restraints etc.
{D}   The police look for infringements of the road laws and book or charge offenders.
{E}   We build better roads.
{F}   We build better and safer cars.
{G}   Advertising is used to educate drivers about widespread bad habits which research shows causes accidents.

Some comments and ideas to indicate that many avenues are still open to cut the fatality rate.
Taking points in the right hand column in order.

A:   We treat driving as a right making the licence test passable by the vast majority, which assumes all  have sufficient physical (and mental) skills and aptitudes to drive safely.  Common sense observations on the roads tell me that a percentage of people that should be excluded by testing for eyesight and reflexes, which could be done partly by arcade type driving simulators.  I personally think that road safety would be enhanced if candidates with say the worst 5%  eyesight and reflexes were given public transport free passes & half price taxi cards and not granted their drivers licence.  Research would indicate where the percentage cut off might be to balance rights against reducing collisions.  The Channel 9  A Current Affair  TV show (8 July 2004) ran a segment showing drivers who were terrified to drive, simply timebombs waiting for a random collision event to catch them,  and who were getting therapy to cope. You would have to ask how they were shoehorned through the driving test in the first place. The therapist was of the opinion thousands of people were like this. What was it I said a few lines up ?

B    C and D:   In general, because of the small number of patrols  police attention on the road tends to focus on collision events resulting in injury (class 4) in the left hand collumn above. This means that police attention may be restricted to perhaps only one thousandth of collision enhancing acts by drivers.   For example it would be rare to get booked for not indicating, or using a cellphone (compared to the number of drivers who do not indicate and make phone calls) yet bad indicating or using a cellphone is enhancing the possibility of a collision. Laws would need changing and entire new patrol procedures developed to detect and record drivers initiating collision enhancing activities.  This would allow police patrols, or maybe special traffic patrols to look for class 1 and 2 driving actions.   
In recent decades the use of speed cameras has increased and it is a fact that they are very often placed on safe portions of road. This page has not been set up to get sidetracked on the many issues around speed cameras when there are already  many web sites.  My personal view very quickly is that I have not seen evidence of a statistical connection between fining drivers for doing 64 kmh on a safe portion of road and reducing  collisions. Bearing in mind the authorities mindsets revealed during the late 2003-early 2004 legal shambles in Victoria where $60Million in  fines was in doubt because of flakey cameras, I would have to say speed camers are a form of "population abuse" by Australian governments.  One wonders how long people will tolerate this before the reasonable application of speed cameras  becomes a political issue.
Oct-Nov 04 article in "Road Patrol" by West Aust RAC headlined, "Fixed Cameras.....Do they make a difference ?"
They will certainly increase revenue.

I think it is regrettable that more enforcement activity is not seen around places on our road network with the greatest concentration of broken plastic lying around.   Which are usually traffic light controlled intersections,  it is not rocket science to figure where collisions are happening.  

Running the orange / red light with risk of having to use heavy collision inducing braking is obviously a vital area in which to reduce collisions.  We have all also experienced getting a green light and then counting up to four vehicles turning late across our path with their arrow obviously turned red.   A fruitful place I would have thought to give errant drivers a hip pocket reminder of that particular collision enhancing habit.

E:    Roads are being slowly improved and one can only assume that our politicians who set the rate of new road spending are happy that the cost of road trauma does not warrant bringing forward say,   improvements to the Pacific Highway.   The fact that "accident black spots" are referred to as such is ample evidence that road quality is an ever present factor in collision frequency.  As mentioned near the page top, the breakup of State & Territory statistics indicates road quality to be a major collision rate determinant.

F:    Cars are always improving handling, road holding and general safety. As a society we choose not to prevent high risk drivers from driving high risk cars which says that we value notions of freedom over reducing road trauma.  We also are happy to drive cars that are hard to see in bad light or rain.

G:   Road safety advertising tends to concentrate on drink driving and speeding.   There are many  other unsafe driving habits & conditions that could be contrasted with good driving habits with the aim of improving road safety.   For  ideas on positive TV advertising to promote better, safer driving read the text of Christopher Clayton's talk on 101.4 FM Radio New Zealand

Some observations of mine on poor driving habits, all of which enhance the risk of collision.

Eye contact:  Why do films and TV entertainment so often show drivers turning to face passengers FOR SO LONG !!!.  It may be a great dramatic device but it sure is "collision enhancing" on the roads.  Every day I see dozens of cases where drivers turn to face passengers, yet safety would be improved if drivers paid more attention to the road and complexities of other traffic and not their passengers face.
Driving while angry,  stressed or preoccupied.   It is obvious that under those conditions our ability to react is impaired.
Canadian research is showing that loud noises, whether it is Wagner or Hip-Hop impairs our reactions.   Yet we allow high risk age groups to drive around in deafening conditions in high powered vehicles.  Freedoms more important again.
Other actions that distract drivers attention while driving:  Every day you will see people map reading, reading a document, applying make up, turning to check a child, tolerating a pet placed where it would interfere in an emergency, slowing unecessarily to look at a shop window, street number, dawdling and preoccupied with an unsafe load, whatever.  All of these seemingly minor actions can (and will eventually) contribute to collisions, injury and death by randomly interacting with other collision enhancing actions.  Passengers too should have a responsibility not to distract drivers particularly say at busy interesections.  How many times are you following a car where there is obviously a vigorous conversation in progress with hand gestures, head bobbing, head turning etc, while the driver is negotiation a busy set of lights.   We all have to realise that by not leaving the driver free to concentrate on driving we are reducing his/her ability to react and slightly increasing the chance of a collision.
I notice in mid 2004 DVD players and screens optional in cars, what madness is this ? Even if screens are not visible to drivers, what a MAD idea which can only add to distraction and collisions.  
Drivers should have a frame of mind that driving is  potentially dangerous and needs their full attention and application.

Vehicle TV advertising should not glorify collision enhancing behaviour.  Think of utes doing wheelies, 4WD's doing crazy things, passenger cars racing, doing wild slides & spins, I could go on.  Another fairly common behaviour shown in TV ads to sell cars is  to portray occupants "jiving around to a song"   All of these behaviours, wild driving or jiving around will lead to more collisions and are counter productive when taxpayers are paying for TV ad campaigns aimed at improving road safety.  

Insurance Companies:  We all know drivers who often have collisions. Drivers experiencing regular collisions are more likely to be involved with injury or death.  Is road trauma an important enough issue that some privacy issues have to take second place to the community good.  Why should insurance companies have the right to take money off  safer drivers to keep collision prone drivers still having collisions ?    I am not aware of these issues even being on road safety agendas.
Maybe insurance companies should have to report collision events and the worst collision prone drivers should be more rapidly priced out of insurance, or guided towards counselling or re-testing and the testing should be more rigorous as discussed above.

Further ideas of mine, this time on more efficient road transport

I think there needs to be changes to our road rules / laws to take account of the following broad principles and increase road efficiency.

Roads are there to proceed on and there should be an onus on drivers to proceed reasonably into clear space in front of them and not hold up others who wish to do so.

The concept of smooth and safe traffic flow is surely what our huge investment in roads is all about, auto clubs should be campaigning for this  and enforcement people should want to see smooth safe flow instead of  using cameras to rigidly enforce penalties on safe driving.   Many freeways now have overhead  message displays and the notion of flexible speed limits to enhance flow could easily be  introduced first on these roads along with fog warnings etc.

Why have I never seen road safety publicity warning  that sudden braking is in effect accelarating your car at the vehicle behind. Many times we see drivers braking or turning suddenly to enter an intersection they have overshot and only getting by on the good reflexes of others.  It must become normal that when we make that mistake and overshoot, that we in fact continue driving smoothly and  proceed on till we can turn off and re-establish our route safely, despite the lost time.

Why don't the authorities allow free left turns (onus on the left turner) at many light controlled intersections. Drivers twiddle their thumbs while clear road invites progress. Surely drivers should be skilled enough to manage this and improve traffic flow.

There are many STOP signs that could be replaced by GIVE WAY signs to improve flow but once again we apparently can not be trusted. 

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Association of British Drivers Excellent comprehensive web site on all issues where drivers are under attack. Their pages on the way environmental issues are twisted to denigrate cars appeals to me. Good links page too incl. Australian and Intnl. links.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Safer Roads web site with useful information. Links to all Australian auto clubs, could the clubs do more ?

WA Dept of Transport's Office of Road Safety, follow Research to statistical reports. Many links

New Zealand research

Safe Speed  UK site promoting intelligent road safety

RoadWeb UK hub web site Pro Road - Pro Safety - Pro Transport Choice - Pro Truth - Pro Motorists' Rights

Fear of Driving, tutors fearful drivers in Melbourne Australia..