Eastern Region representative on the Victorian Community Road Safety Alliance, John Duscher, chats with officer in charge of the Bass Coast Highway Patrol, Sergeant Jason Hullick, both stressing the importance of taking care on the road this summer.
TEACHER, former mayor, football administrator, Justice of the Peace and Bail Justice… the community involvements of Wonthaggi’s John Duscher have been many and varied.
And his latest role, as the Eastern Region representative on the statewide Victorian Community Road Safety Alliance could be his greatest challenge.
The alliance is responsible for developing a strategic response to community road safety with a focus on safer roads and roadsides, safer vehicles and safer road users.
“We look after 48 individual Local Community Road Safety Groups and help them to attract funding for various road safety initiatives locally,” said John.
“In recent times we have focused on motorbike safety in the Gippsland region, heavy vehicle safety where I am pleased to say we have played a part on reducing truck accidents, we’ve supported the L2P programs, Bike Ed and various other initiatives, ensuring that the tie in with the overall messages about road safety.”
John is one of seven regional community representatives which sit on the alliance board where high-ranking officers of the following authorities are also represented: Department of Justice, Department of Transport, Department of Health, Department of Human Services, Department of Planning and Community Development, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, MAV, VicRoads, LGPro, TAC, VCOSS, RACV and the Victoria Police.
“The government takes road safety very seriously, adopting an all-of-government approach to include education, health, the police, TAC and others who have a role.”
Last week he met with officer in charge of the Bass Coast Highway Patrol, Sergeant Jason Hullick, for a briefing on summer road safety operations but John’s work is principally to link in the Local Community Road Safety Groups with funding sources and the overall strategy.
The role of the local groups is as follows: to contribute to the long term road safety goal of reducing death and serious injury on Victorian roads. They do this by influencing safe road user behaviour through the development and implementation of community road safety programs and initiatives.
They advocate for safer cars and for a physical environment that supports road safety, such as appropriate signage and safe road networks.
In addition, Local Community Road Safety Groups support communities to identify and address road safety issues. In undertaking these roles Local Community Road Safety Groups aim to:
• Identify local road safety needs, issues, and priorities affecting their communities or population group
• Establish and maintain working arrangements with local organisations and interest groups to address road safety
• Attract funds and resources
• Budget and allocate resources for local programs and activities
• Develop and conduct local road safety programs with a focus on safer road users, safer vehicles and support for safer roads and the adjacent environment
• Evaluate the implementation of local programs to ensure they achieve local goals and objectives
• Build the knowledge and skills of local group members.
Initiatives might include:
• Encouraging local showrooms to promote the safer cars and to display crash test and new and used car safety rating publications
• Supporting Victoria Police enforcement efforts by helping to build the perceived risk of detection for speeding or drink driving. (For example, the Not So Fast and Looking After Our Mates programs)
• Encouraging local companies to adopt safe road use policies that all employees must endorse as a condition of employment
• Advocating for infrastructure improvements to improve the safety of road users
• Working with local councils and licensees to improve implementation of Responsible Service of Alcohol and to develop and promote alternative transport options at high-risk times.
Registered Local Community Road Safety Groups are expected to prepare and implement a three year road safety plan.
Country risk takers under the microscope
NEW Transport Accident Commission research has revealed why some young country drivers habitually take risks on regional roads.
The study examined the behaviours and attitudes of 92 country drivers with poor driving histories, including repeat speeding offenders, drink drivers and others who had received a licence suspension or disqualification in the past.
Among the key findings was that many speed on country roads because they think they know the roads and irresponsibly drink drive when they feel that there is no other way to get home.
Risky drivers aged 19 to 35 in three regional municipalities – Cardinia, Mitchell and Golden Plains Shire (taking in part of the Ballarat area) – each took part in two focus groups held six months apart. They were questioned about their driving habits and attitudes towards road safety.
TAC chief executive officer Janet Dore said the study focussed on regional drivers because vehicle occupants were three times more likely to be killed and 40 per cent more likely to be seriously injured on regional roads than in Melbourne.
Ms Dore said the commission regularly conducted research into risky behaviour in order to effectively target public education campaigns and plan road safety programs.
“Unfortunately too many country drivers still feel that they can ignore road safety laws.
“This research helps the TAC a better understanding of how we can change these attitudes,” Ms Dore said.
“This research was not about determining the extent of risky driving across the state, it was more about talking to the people who we know take risks and finding out what makes them tick.”
In the first round of focus groups, 67 per cent of males stated that within the past six months they had driven over the legal alcohol limit. That figure had decreased to 61 per cent when the second session was held in May this year.
Females were significantly less likely to drink drive, with 33 per cent saying they had driven under the influence in the six months before the first focus group, decreasing to 19 per cent by May this year.
In the first sessions, 49 per cent of all respondents stated they “speed in 100km/h zones “often”, with 31 per cent saying they did it “occasionally”.
By the second focus group speeding had reduced, with 34 per cent doing it often and 53 per cent doing it occasionally.
Ms Dore said it was encouraging that the process of discussing the potential consequences of their risky driving during the first round of focus groups had appeared to result in a decrease in risky behaviour by the second round.
“It does demonstrate how encouraging people to think about how their actions can cause serious injuries or death can work to curtail their risk-taking behaviour,” she said.
Other key findings included:
• Risky drivers tended to have a high opinion of their own driving skills, with 69 per cent stating that they were a better than average driver.
• Participants generally believed it was the actions of other drivers or road conditions beyond their control that were most likely to cause accidents.
• Half of the participants said hurting or killing someone else was their biggest concern in relation to drink driving, while 25 per cent most feared being caught by police.
• Participants considered using mobile phones while driving as normal driving behaviour.
Ms Dore said there was a perception among many regional drivers that they could get away with taking risks because there was less traffic or because the police presence is spread over a bigger geographical area.
“Regardless of whether people think they are in control, they can’t overcome the physics: the faster you drive, the less time you have to perceive hazards and the more likely you are to be seriously injured or killed in the event of a collision,” Ms Dore said.
“With regard to drink driving, it is disturbing to think that people can justify their behaviour by saying that a lack of public transport leaves them no alternative.
“Surely the obvious alternative for someone who can’t get home without driving would be to refrain from drinking.”
To see the full report compiled by the Social Research Centre, visit: www.tac.vic.gov.au/surveys
Targeting unsafe driving in country Victoria through intelligence-led enforcement and targeted education is a key strategy in Victorian Government’s 10-year Road Safety Strategy. Find out more at www.roadsafety.vic.gov.au