Join Date: May 2001
Location: Somewhere over the rainbow
Road toll - Driver education is the answer
Article from drive.com.au
Car makers urge better road skills
By Joshua Dowling, Motoring Editor
The Sydney Morning Herald
Tuesday February 4 2003
The heads of Australia's biggest car makers are pressing governments to make advanced training compulsory for drivers to curb the rising road toll.
They have asked for equal financial contributions from state and federal governments and the insurance industry to help fund the program.
The proposal was conceived during an informal chat over dinner with the Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, in his Canberra office last August.
The meeting, held on the eve of last year's local industry submissions, was attended by the bosses of Holden, Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi and importers Nissan and Mercedes-Benz.
Under the proposal, drivers would need to undergo extensive training before being issued a full licence -- and would be required to attend a refresher course at their own expense once they accrue six of their 12 demerit points.
Given the number of new licences issued nationally each year, the required funding was estimated at $20 million a year.
The proposal says the car makers, federal and state governments and insurers could each contribute a quarter of the cost, or $5 million. The car industry estimates this would add just $10 to the cost of each new car.
Mr Anderson will review the proposal when he meets state transport ministers at the next Australian Transport Council meeting in May, a spokesman said.
State governments have been scratching their heads over the cause of recent rises in the road toll. These have come despite harsher penalties, more stringent enforcement and a growing number of fixed speed cameras.
"So, clearly that's not the solution," said Ford Australia's president, Geoff Polites.
"Car safety has improved -- and will continue to improve -- but the one big omission in all the road safety strategies is the driver. Cars have become safer, but no one has really done much about making drivers safer."
Mr Polites said Australia's aging car fleet was a product of the country's environment, because "cars don't rust out like they do overseas, so people tend to drive them forever".
He said vehicle affordability was better than ever thanks to favourable interest rates and lower import tariffs and, therefore, better driver training was "the next natural step".
One car company chief, who did not wish to be named, said the contributions from state governments would be "a fraction of a percent of the revenue earned from traffic fines".
Another senior car company official said the insurance industry should contribute because "ultimately they are the beneficiaries of better drivers because, eventually, they should get fewer crash claims".
Earlier this month, Mr Anderson criticised the emphasis on speed in road safety campaigns and expressed concern it "may blind us to other causes".
"There is no doubt [speed] is a key factor but I would like to see a comparative study which the states and territories in particular can use for road and traffic management. I also believe better driver education can play a significant role.
"Obviously, cars and roads being in poor condition, the age of drivers and even the weather can play a role. I would like a co-operative approach with the states and territories because we all want the holiday and annual tolls reduced."