Road fatalities cost blowout

Wednesday, 09 June, 2004

Work related road crashes cost Australian industry $400-$500 million annually with the average cost to society for each fatal crash around $1.7 million, an industry expert told a leading workplace safety.

Darren Wishart, Program Manager - Fleet Safety, CARRS-Q, was addressing the Safety In Action 2004 conference in April. "In terms of the cost of crashes, repairs are only the tip of the iceberg," he told the conference.

In Australia road crashes are the most common cause of work-related injury, death and absence from work. Wishart told the conference work-related traffic injuries were about twice as likely to result in death or permanent disability than other workplace accidents. He said they accounted for up to 26% of work-related fatalities and 13% of the national road toll.

"There is an obvious and growing need for industry, government and the community to allocate resources and build the knowledge and expertise in this area," he said.

Wishart told the Conference that high levels of skill or proficiency in a task did not necessarily translate into better behaviour. He also cautioned against over confidence resulting from driver training and education programs. "There is a common misunderstanding that improving road user skills will automatically improve road user behaviour, which in turn is expected to result in improved road safety," he said. "For instance, driver training and educational programs involving a strong practical component, such as the development of vehicle control skills, may inadvertently create an inflated belief in one's own driving ability, which in turn may lead to an increase in aggressive driving behaviour."

Wishart called on organisations to adopt a broader perspective and develop initiatives targeted at the underlying cultural issues further influencing fleet safety. "Organisations need to gather baseline measures from a number of areas that current research has identified as influencing the design, development and implementation of appropriate and targeted intervention strategies, including driver attitudes, road safety knowledge, behavioural intentions and risk taking," he said.

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