You can’t learn to drive early enough, according to the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS). They’re running a pilot program for kids as young as 12 in Adelaide that they hope the Government will pick up and run across all secondary schools.
It’s an absolutely fantastic idea. Not only will it prevent kids from picking up bad habits from parents or older siblings who drive them around, it’ll also prevent anyone chickening out of driving and waiting too long to get a licence.
As a child of the era of the first really graphic road safety television ads, I waited till my mid 20s to start learning to drive because I always felt too anxious to take the responsibility of getting behind the wheel.
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It’s difficult to demand safer roads for motorcycle riders in a week when a 21-year-old L-plater lost his licence for texting while travelling at high speed down Sydney’s M2 on his Ducati Monster.
If bike riders are too stupid to look after themselves, why should we expect public authorities to spend time and money doing the job for us?
Fortunately one federal MP and long-term bike rider has persisted in this cause with a timely warning to Parliament. Australia’s one million motorbike owners deserve more attention from road safety experts, the Nationals’ Luke Hartsuyker, shadow minister for youth and sport, has said.
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I recently visited the Primary School I attended in rural Victoria. The old school, first built in 1870, has been replaced by a new structure on the outskirts of the town. The modern buildings, with their light, open work spaces and landscaped surrounds, offer an attractive learning environment. The old brick school that I attended now serves as a community centre.
There was one surprise at the new facility: a large covered area to house the many bicycles that the students ride to school. In my time, most pupils either walked or rode to school. Only the kids from the surrounding farms were driven, and even some of them rode their bikes into town.
These days, very few children ride to school, with over 60 per cent being driven, and another 20 per cent using public transport. Many schools don’t have a bike shed. According to a survey released by the Health Foundation and the Cycling Promotion Fund this week, 46 per cent of children travel less than ten minutes to get to school.
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This is not your typical rant of a cyclist against senseless, inconsiderate drivers or a driver against arrogant, lycra-clad cyclists. But don’t worry, you’ll get your chance to rant at the end.
I find myself in a unique position. I cycled a lot – for many years while I was an Olympic rower then a few as a competitive cyclist. I ended up winning the 2009 Tour of New Zealand, then I became the National Time Trial Champion a year later.
But due to a head injury I sustained through a fall at a cycling race at last year’s Tour Down Under, I no longer cycle. And I had to surrender my car licence. I’ve recently been through the medical and practical driving test and have got it back after nine months of not driving.
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“It’s been awhile since I’d been in the car with dad, but when he offered to drive to my cousin’s place last Sunday, I said yep. Hey, it was a great excuse to indulge in a extra glass of wine or two. Anyway, it wasn’t at all relaxing. From the minute we turned out of the driveway, I was gripping my seat. His driving was out of hand. Forgetting to check mirrors, not indicating and one terrible moment at the traffic lights when we skimmed through a red. He’s 75 this year and always been a pretty good driver. But I’m worried about him. What if he hurts himself? What if he hurts other people? If it was anybody else I’d be ringing the cops straight away. But can I really turn in my dad?”
Can you help this reader? Post your thoughts below.
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It is an extraordinary moment. A stadium of 4,000 hormone-charged teenagers from all walks of life, sitting in absolute silence, engrossed by the scene playing out before them. No one has asked them to be quiet. It just happens when you’re watching strangers die in front of you.
We are at the 2011 Youth and Road Trauma forum, an event which is the brainchild of the extraordinary team at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital Trauma unit. Exhausted from years of dealing with pulverised youthful bodies due to motor vehicle crashes, the team’s director Dr Ken Harrison decided it’s time for a new tack.
Usually, 16 and 17 year-olds converge at the Acer Arena for rock concerts. This is different. The scene unfolding on the large arena floor is a re-creation of a fatal road crash involving teenagers. The ‘drivers’ and ‘passengers’ are young actors, but everyone else is an emergency professional playing their roles in such a matter-of-fact manner, it’s deeply disturbing to watch.
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ANYONE who has spent any time in NSW would be familiar with the provocative “small-penis” advertisement aimed at combating hoon driving.
The ad, filmed in slow motion with a classical music soundtrack, features a pimply-faced youth, still on his P-plates, who almost loses control of his crappy old Toyota Corolla while trying to do a burn-out.
His mates in the back seat look at each other, raise an eyebrow and smirk, then make a wiggly gesture with their little finger as if to say their driver friend must be so poorly equipped tackle-wise that he has to compensate by being a big man with the car.
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Speed cameras alone cannot account for dangerous conditions and drivers on our roads.
Victorian Police Minister Peter Ryan’s announcement of an inquiry into the accuracy and effectiveness of the state’s speed cameras comes in the wake of a culture of public skepticism about speed cameras in Victoria, and recent furore in NSW.
Victoria pays some of the highest speeding fines in the country. The Brumby government budgeted them to raise $476 million this financial year alone, so it is little wonder they have been pigeonholed by many as ‘revenue raisers’.
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MANY of us look back with fondness at our first car. An old, clapped-out, bomb that only just got you from A to B is the memory that comes to mind for most.
But as the Christmas holidays approach and our kids take to the road, is giving the kids the keys to the family’s oldest car good enough?
As Australia’s key road safety advisory body, the National Road Safety Council thinks its time we give our kids the keys to our Australasian New Car Assessment Program 5 star-rated car parked in the garage.
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In February, a teenage p-plate driver and one of his passengers were killed on the Sunshine Coast Queensland, after colliding with an oncoming car in wet conditions.
In Victoria, five people were killed on impact when their out of control car hit a tree at a reported 140 km/h, the driver was 19 and on p-plates. He was carrying too many passengers, one occupant wasn’t wearing a seat belt and the driver had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.19 - well above the zero limit.
And in January, a 17 year old teenage girl on the NSW South Coast was killed instantly when she drove into a tree, also injuring her three passengers. One of those passengers, a 15 year old girl, was so critically injured as a result of the crash; she lost both her legs and sustained serious neck and chest injuries.
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Around a third of Australian road fatalities are the direct result of drink-driving. Add to that the millions of random breath tests that occur across the country every year and you’re looking at some fairly good reasons not to drink-drive.
Not that you’d know that from the statistics; the percentage of alcohol-fuelled road fatalities has remained constant in the past two decades. In fact, our collective apathy toward the separation of alcohol consumption and motor vehicle control is so great as to warrant its own show on the Nine Network.
Premiering last Sunday, RBT is Nine’s attempt at discouraging drink-driving or, depending on your point of view, an attempt to capitalise on the inability of Australian drivers to understand that driving home after six beers is probably a bad idea.
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The most terrifying moment of my life was about six years ago in broad daylight on a back street of Sydney’s inner-west when I was pushing my then baby daughter in the pram on a walk to the local shops.
We’d just turned a corner and were crossing the normally quiet street when a bloke in a souped-up Ford muscle car came fanging around the curve on the wrong side of the road, forcing me to yank the pram backwards with and jump on to the footpath.
As I did this I shouted “Hey!” at the top of my voice and waved a fist in his direction. He slammed on the brakes, reversed at speed, and pulled up right next to the pram. “Did you say something arsehole?” he asked.
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As a former police officer with ten years service and a number of pursuits under my belt, I feel qualified to weigh-in on the ongoing police chase, don’t chase debacle.
It seems yet again the majority of public anger, fuelled by civil libertarians, is being directed at the “cowboys in blue”.
Predictably, the driver behind the wheel of the pursued vehicles have escaped criticism.
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IT’S understandable that the families of those killed in the weekend’s multiple fatality in Canberra would want to blame police. They might be able to answer for their actions.
In the outrage over another police pursuit which has ended in tragedy, it seems the person who gets the least attention is the serial car thief who started the chain of events in the first place.
But I’ll repeat – it’s understandable. He can’t answer to the grieving families.
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I was sitting at traffic lights the other day making my way to a gig in the Hunter Valley. It was lashing rain and the weather was terrible – you could barely see the road up ahead let alone the other traffic.
As I waited for the lights to change, a car pulled up alongside me. Glancing briefly to the left I saw the familiar P plate on the window screen. The car was a six-cylinder and the young driver at the steering wheel seemed far too eager to put each cylinder to use.
“Alright buddy”, I grumbled as I heard the intermittent and very familiar revving of his car, “hold your horses”. The lights changed and the young driver shot off like a bullet.
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This is not meant to sound heartless. The emotions surrounding the latest shocking spate of P-plate deaths are obviously still raw. And as the families and friends of those who have died work through their grief, it is understandable that they will sometimes lash out and look for external forces to blame as they deal with their loss.
But if kids are going to keep killing themselves at this rate - and kill or injure other people as a result of their reckless or incompetent driving - the time has come to stop molly-coddling these young people and their deluded friends.
The time has also come to stop offering the parents of reckless P-plate drivers nothing other than uncritical sympathy, as in many cases they too have played a role in allowing their children to behave in a way which endangered them and other people.
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Next Wednesday the National Road Safety Council will have its inaugural meeting in Parliament House. This initiative from Australia’s Transport Ministers is an attempt to get expert advice from around the nation to make practical suggestions aimed at reducing our road toll.
The meeting will have a sombre tone.
Sadly, the heart-wrenching grief caused by road deaths visited more families last year than the year before. The road toll in 2009 was up by almost 5 per cent to 1,509 deaths, albeit still the second lowest figure in almost 60 years and less than half the average recorded during the peak of the 1970’s (3798).
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A strange thing happened when I became a parent. I started to get upset when I saw stories like the one of the five young men who were killed in a motor crash at the weekend.
I’ve also found myself saying ‘in my day’ or worse, ‘when I was young’. I’ve already made decisions about a computer in my child’s room and whether she will have a mobile phone.
Sometimes when the entrepreneurial gene comes out, I wonder if I could get a mobile phone made that simply dials home and does nothing else. I would market it as not having a camera or video function, wouldn’t be able to surf the net and it wouldn’t rack up bills of many hundreds of dollars. (That’s where the entrepreneurial gene fails me.)
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There are plenty of normal Australians – normal being defined as prone to uncharacteristic lapses of judgment – who have a dark tale involving an incident of drink-driving where they could easily have killed themselves, a friend, an unsuspecting stranger.
Whenever I see former British Prime Minister Tony Blair I’m reminded of mine. Unlike most of my mates I got through my teens and most of my 20s without ever drink-driving, in large part because I didn’t bother getting my licence until I was 22 and escaped the road-related rattiness that comes with youth.
All except for the day of the 1997 British election, when with friends I’d attended a dawn breakfast at the National Press Club in Canberra to watch the BBC coverage, where we ate a hearty English breakfast laid on by the British High Commission, washed down with English beer. Lots of English beer.
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