Outback Crashes, Police warning caravanners

4WD rollovers are not something that should treated as a joke. (Image sourced ABC News)

5 incidents in two weeks. 32 fatalities in five moths (6 up on 2021).
Vehicle rollovers in unprecedented numbers on our beaches

Official Government response to road carnage

Greg Murphy summed it up best with his post on the official Greg Murphy FB page with this response 

In this case, a government-funded campaign with a fancy symbol, a big Zero, will not do anything. Yesterday, we lost another well known Australian to road traum. 

Andrew Symonds was killed in a single-vehicle road accident in Townsville, Queensland, on 14 May 2022, at the age of 46. Queensland Police said in a statement that Symonds was driving on Hervey Range Road near the Alice River Bridge when his car left the road and rolled at around 10:30 pm local time. 

The Victorian government’s response to this tragedy was “it was an unfortunate reminder of the need for awareness on our roads”. A fancy campaign slogan and a quick marketing reference to a symbol, does not do anything to fix the problem.

What eliminates a problem is Action. Taking steps. Proactive Policy. It is not until we change the way we educate drivers, that things will change. 

What is going wrong?

A simple answer is a one-size-fits-all approach to driver licencing. Even that doesn’t work, costing the economy over $36bn per annum, referring back to the “Default”, meaning what happens if we don’t do anything? In that time, our cars have gotten bigger, along with our expectations of what we should be able to do, based on persuasive advertising content. Inevitably, it appears as if there is no knowledge in the ART of DRIVING, nor is there any inclination to improve ourselves as drivers, both on and off-road. 

The quickest way to a knuckle sandwich was to criticise a person's ability as a driver, or a lover, as they are the only two things we teach ourselves how to do.

Sir Stirling Moss

A friend and former race engineer told me about a youtube video he watched recently of a business doing a build-up of a Mitsubishi Triton. Canopy, accessories, all the kit, raving about how light it was, then claiming that the car was coming in at a tidy 2800kg; “heavy but not too heavy”, they claimed. He then researches the GVM of a similar spec Triton, and it is 2,900kg. Evidently, the driver’s weight and passengers have not been accounted for, let alone their camping equipment. The vehicle is so far over GVM it’s not funny.

You cannot blame the people when the issue is systemic. I recall doing a fleet evaluation for DWELP on the Gwagon they were introducing into SES and support services.

Interestingly the problems were twofold;

  1. The way 4WD programs were being taught and who they were being taught by, where the vehicle specifics and changes in the technology of the vehicles were not taken into account
  2. The crashes and incidences were not happening in the bush, they were happening in transit between depot and the bush.

 

Essentially the issues were new and young members, who got their drivers licences in Hyundai Excels, were now driving vehicles that GVM was 5 tonne, plus the 3 tonnes behind them. Unfortunately, these young drivers lacked driver experience in how to stop and an understanding of vehicle dynamics. As a result, crashes were happening due to insufficient time to slow down and slow down enough to avoid the inertia during cornering. So the department asked for the report to be broken into three parts. They submitted the part that said what an excellent job they had done purchasing the GWagon, over regular vehicles such as Hilux, Patrol and Landcruiser, and buried the other three reports while initiating more advanced training in the offroad use of the GWagon, by the team at Mercedes.

There is no such thing as a bad road, set of conditions or vehicle. It is simply what the driver chose to do with these conditions that create the risk

Frank Gardner

Hence your problems on the roads and the beaches are one and the same

  •  People do not understand GVM, Tare and Towing mass.
  • They do not understand how to load and tow their trailers.
  • They have no training in defensive, advanced skills or nor do they incorporate the ART of DRIVING into everyday driving.
  • The vehicles are overweight.
  • The trailers towed exceed the combined mass of the vehicle and trailer combination.
  • The drivers have no idea.
  • They try and drive them like their inner-city family car, and it quite simply does not work.
  • When something goes wrong, everyone and everything else is to blame.
  • Insurance does not specify that training should be a part of the insurance premium. You crashed? fair enough; in terms of risk assessment, we want you to do this course so it does not happen again
  • There is no consequence, so there is no change in behaviour.

 

Don’t get me wrong; this is also an industry problem. We do not take the time for people to understand what driver training is; the mere association of a driving school conjures nightmares about a little car, a crusty older person and constant talk about rules.

No one hops into a car to crash, but people do it every day.

Gene Corbett

Yet driving does not discriminate; what rules you do or don’t know has no effect. The ART of DRIVING is all about understanding how to use your car and to keep yourself safe, It is a constant flow of grip vs force, and our job, as the driver, is to have more grip than force. 

Sounds easy... The statistics tell you otherwise

This is a really, really big problem! It’s up to everyone to step up and realise that, just as sportspeople have coaches to improve their game and that musicians and dancers have teachers to improve their craft, we as drivers could benefit from additional knowledge and experience from people proven with expertise and experience.

A driving school instructor is taught it is all about rules, compliance and passing the driving test, yet the post-test failure rate is a 3000% increase in crashes.

That is why they call it the default, “What happens if we don’t do anything.”

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