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Girl TORQUE: Safer Journeys


With the release of ‘Safer Journeys 2020’ road safety strategy it’s good to see our government is at last placing greater focus on driver training, though it’s taken a tread-lightly stance to several issues that merit a firmer hand

Its proposal to raise the driving age to 16 is a start. Mind you, raising the driving age may merely move the crash risk up a year if it’s not accompanied by a greater emphasis on driver education, and on enforcing plentiful driving practice – which means educating parents, too.

Government does propose making the restricted licence test harder to encourage the ideal – at least 120 hours of supervised driving practice – and does want cabinet to consider improving the road safety education available to young drivers, though ‘consider’ and implement’ are two different things, even before we think about what is meant by road safety education. Still, the strategy does at least consider that education could take place in schools – which should ensure every potential driver attends.

And it’s a start – as is lowering the acceptable blood alcohol limit for young drivers to zero. Again, it’s not a done deal but let’s hope it happens. For a sober 15 to 19-year-old driver is five times more likely to crash than a driver aged 30 or over with no alcohol in their system – and 15 times more likely to crash at the current 0.03 limit.

Assuming for a minute that making a recommendation equals making a change, that’ll put a dent in the crash stats for starters.

What else? Investigating power restrictions for young drivers – a potential minefield given how easy it is to alter or replace the ECU that controls a modern engine. Your car’s advertised power and its actual capability could be worlds apart.

Just so long as they don’t try South Australia’s rule banning turbo- and supercharged cars, which among other things bans turbo diesels with their largely benign power delivery, and also bans such threat-free devices as Daihatsu’s diminutive Copen, with its 660cc turbo-charged motor.

Seems to me the best way to ensure young drivers don’t climb into risky cars is to make insurance compulsory. Insurance companies will soon work out which vehicles are risky, and price them off a young driver’s radar. Or at least make running one expensive enough that crashing it is definitively seen as something to avoid.

Moving right along; a zero drink-drive limit for offenders – bravo – and a reduction in the alcohol blood limit for adults to 0.05. Or researching the risk posed by those between 0.05 and the current limit.

Come on guys, take a stand. Whether the increased risk is small or not, lowering the limit sends a clear message. Do it. So does a zero limit for repeat offenders. Yes, they might ignore it – but should breaking a law be seen as a good reason for rescinding it? If so, we’d have open speed limits tomorrow.

There’s more, of course – including changing the give-way rules to reflect world practice, and considering a power-to-weight limit for learner motorcyclists, so they can’t access super-powerful race reps but might be allowed big single-cylinder clunkers – good news to large blokes unable to find a learner machine able to accommodate them.

And that’s all I’ve got room for, and a good thing too. My soap box is groaning at the seams.

Read past Girl TORQUE columns here.

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