Australia’s largest Defensive Driving Program provider, Murcotts Driving Excellence, has applauded Premier Dan Andrews, for promoting driver education and training for all Victorian Year 10 students.
However, it has sounded a note of caution about implementing a program without first consulting organisations that will be tasked with delivering these programs to Learner drivers.
Murcotts’ Managing Director, Geoff Thomas, says that while it is important for politicians to show leadership on issues such as young driver education and road safety, it is also important not to set up expectations about program delivery until the proper processes have been carried out.
“Failure on this issue is not an option,” Mr Thomas said. “The statistics are confronting and while the number of road deaths among 18 to 25 year old drivers has decreased over recent years, the fact remains that this group is vastly over-represented in road trauma statistics.
“In their first year of driving, research from the Transport Accident Commission shows that young Victorians are almost four times more likely to be involved in a fatal or serious injury crash than more experienced drivers.”
“Authorities should focus less on road deaths and concentrate on the number of crashes that result in serious injury. Minimising this aspect of road trauma is actually harming our ability to focus on the real purpose of defensive driver training and in particular safe driving behaviours.”
Mr Thomas called on politicians from both sides of the political divide to avoid using the issue of road safety and driver education to score political points.
He said all Governments, both State and Federal, need to commit to establishing a bitisan review and consult recognised young driver training providers to scope out the most appropriate course for Learner drivers.
“Murcotts has been in this business for 46 years and we are yet to hear anyone in authority correctly define a Safe Dring Course or Defensive Driver Training,” Mr Thomas said.
“Too many driver training course in Australia miss the high order cognitive skills required by Learner drivers. Consequently, programs aimed at controlling skids or focusing on getting out of trouble are missing key elements essential to safe driving behaviours.”
“Equally, any program limited to a short duration such as four hours is problematic. Safe driving requires life long learning and driver training courses need to recognise the changing needs of drivers of all ages. Murcotts offer full day programs but aknowledge the curriculum can only expect to touch on a few key outcomes, such as improving vision, hazard detection and crash avoidance.”
Mr Thomas said Australia’s road safety strategy has neglected the evaluation of driver training, choosing instead to review overseas literature.
“The overseas evaluations are often flawed with a failure to use control groups and particularly a failure to account for variables in program design,” he said.
“It is time that Australia conducted its own studies into driver training and removed the bias against any form of defensive driver training for young drivers.
“Premier Dan Andrews is right to raise this issue. But he needs to make it clear that credentialled and experienced driver training organisations like Murcotts are best placed to develop and implement courses that will ultimately save the lives of young Victorians and minimise the trauma to their families and friends.”