Opinion: No Amount Of Gadgetry Will Help Aussie Drivers

There's all sorts of cool gadgetry being attached to cars to make them safer for us to drive. None of them will make a single shred of difference to the average Aussie driver. If you think that's not describing you — it almost certainly is. It never fails. Every single time I post a story about some form of in-car technology — whether it's the legality of using devices in the car, or Volvo's pedestrian safety technology, or Ford's MyCar SMS muting technology — the comments section degrades into an argument about speeding. It's damned predictable, and predictable for a single reason.

The comments section tends to mirror the wider Australian viewpoint that hey, a little bit of speeding is no bad thing. The lines that emerge from there are depressingly predictable. "The government's just out to raise revenues with speeding fines" or "I'm a much better driver than most people" or "Speeding is actually safer because you're on the road for far less time". Sometimes sprinkled in with "I don't need these new fangled gadgets because I'm such a gosh-darned AWESOME driver". Often a mix of all four in dizzying array. That's pretty much the way of thinking that permeates these kinds of discussions.

While there are in-car technologies that do make me stop and wonder — I do wonder if, for example, Volvo's Pedestrian Safety tech might make us think even less about pedestrians because, hey, the car'll stop itself if something goes wrong — there's some basic assumptions that people get wrong over and over again. I've had enough of it — hence this rant.

Disclaimer: I've had exactly two speeding tickets in the last decade. Paid them both, and I was at fault in both cases.

First up: Speed kills. It's simple momentum, and VERY simple physics. I never pursued physics outside of High School, but you don't need anything but a very rudimentary understanding of momentum to grasp this concept.

Hit something at 30kph and you'll damage it pretty badly; hit it at 130kph and you'll turn it into so much kebab meat, whether it's a roadside roo in the middle of nowhere or somebody's child.

Equally, if something goes wrong with your vehicle at 130kph, you've got much more momentum to shed before coming to a stop in a situation where your actual vehicle control may be severely compromised. No quantity of technology onboard a car is going to make a difference under those conditions, but keeping your right foot off the accelerator a little more often most certainly will.

My next point is partly mathematical, and, I've got to admit, partly anecdotal. The maths is pretty simple; people overstate their actual driving ability to a degree that's frightening to me. Logically and mathematically speaking, half of all drivers have to be below average. That's undeniable, although where you draw that "average" line is clearly up for debate.

Anecdotally, though, virtually all of the drivers that I've known that have been convinced that they're God's gift to driving have all been rather keen on some genuinely terrifying driving. I'm not talking here of the kinds of driving that Mark Webber specialises in, but the kinds of real world traffic driving that gives them a thrill as they show off their so-called "skills". The really aggressive types that overtake over double whites, speed through school zones and routinely hit 130kph on the freeway.

I'm going to say it here and now; these kinds of drivers are woefully below average. The more dangerously you drive, the more dangerous you are — end of story. You cannot control every variable on the road, from the condition of the road to whether a component in your car locks up for unforeseen reasons, so adding to the risk by driving like a fool is engaging in below average driving, not showing that you're an above average driver.

I'm well aware that my own driving skills are distinctly average, and that's fine by me; I'm very much somebody who gets into a car and drives from point A to point B and then gets out again at the other end. But when I do that — whether it's a short hop down the road to buy milk or my twice-annual drive from Sydney to Adelaide (it's really just down the road a little ways) — I'm often struck — thankfully so far in thought rather than sharp physical reality — by how many dodgy drivers there are on the roads. Very, very few of them are the ones that are going under the speed limit. No amount of gadgetry under the hood is going to correct for that kind of thing, or that kind of thinking.

So what's the solution? We could raise the status of the "average" driver by increasing the level of driver education or mandating regular testing of drivers even after a licence is granted. Technology can then pay a role, but until we engineer a better driver, it's not going to make enough of a difference to really count.

Images: jpctalbot and mooseberry.


Comments

    They're all terrible drivers. Including you Alex!

    OK, I won't disappoint you. I'd much rather your average poor driver just speed up a bit and get out of my way. Nothing riles me more than being stuck behind somebody doing anything up to 40 km/h BELOW the speed limit - and it's a regular occurrence on one of NSW's "premier" roads, the Princes Highway (sorry, that should be goat track).

    Actually, a lot of what you say makes sense. But the way I see it, driving is inherently risky - it is an insane thing to do, drive around at 100 km/h when the human body can't cope with bumping into things at much above walking speed.

    But, in the risk versus reward balance, car driving comes out way ahead. Once you've accepted the risk, and accepted the fact that to mitigate or remove that risk we'd have to drive at no more than 10 km/h - something clearly not practical - then logically you must accept that to have the freedom and mobility that cars bring means that some people are going to die.

    I'm happy with that equation - and yes, my family has experienced road trauma.

      John. Very sensible way of looking at it. Driving is inherently risky and yes, while we try to reduce the risk, we can't completely eliminate them. So if one k over is a killer, why not reduce the speed limits still further to save more lives? Because it is impractical to do so. And so we are living with a compromise because cars are just too damn convenient. Perhaps it all boils down to statisitcs and finding the happy balance between going somewhere and possible dying in the process.

      There are fatalities amongst the bike riding fraternity - I mean the serious club members in spandex shorts. Perhaps we should limit their speed also but we don't. Because we leave speed the responsibility of the rider, unlike the driver, where alot of that resonsibility has been taken away to such an extent that we've ended up as frsutrated, restrained children hunched over our speedos for fear of getting penalized should our attention remain unfocussed for a second or two.

      So it's a worthy arguement - risk vs reward. IMHO I say, give more of the responsibilty back to the driver. It works in Germany - look at the stats (Monash Uni).

    Absolutely! I truly believe that drivers should have to re-apply for their license every time it comes up for renewal - so every 5 years. A written and driving re-test. Maybe a written one every 5 and a driving one every 10 years.

    The current-affairs shows are always advertising that P-Platers know more about road rules than all other drivers (I only watch the ads - that's more than enough drivel), well, there is a pretty easy way to fix that. Test, test test!

    Oh, and it'd create more jobs too :)

      I agree, and add if you lose your license for any reason, you should be required to do a written and practical test to get it back.

      In addition, the test needs to test your actual driving skills, not how to drive in a residential zone, then reverse and parallel park.

      Even a half hour down the freeway and back would have most people in perth riding buses.

        I believe this will not help anyone as it will not keep anyone safe. People are just going to "pass" the test and keep driving how they do. Waste of money, time and effort. Mate passed the tests first go and he's had no less than 4 accidents within 3 years of getting his license.

        When the day comes that cars can drive themselves will be when we see 0 accidents IMO.

      I believe people over 60 should be forced to resit their exam, but other than that it seems a waste of time.
      The number of times I've seen a car driving 40kmh in an 80 zone is because the driver is an elderly woman who can barely see over the driving wheel.

    I encourage revenue raising through speed cameras. People may learn the best way to stop this way to raise money is to not speed. I just see it as a voluntary donation to the countries coffers. I also agree with hiding speed cameras everywhere. It means that people will be encouraged to go the speed limit everywhere, rather than just where they know the cameras are.

    I don't think that people appreciate that speeding makes them a criminal, failing to indicate causes issues not just for other drivers but pedestrians and cyclists. , talking and texting while driving is just stupid.

    //end rant//

      I recently got a speeding ticket, I was driving in what I thought was a 70km zone, where it was in fact an unclearly marked 60km zone, I was obeying what I thought was the speed limit, does that make me a criminal?

      This particular mobile unit was positioned right in an area that is difficult to tell what the speed limit is, tell me that's not a tactic for building revenue.

      I do agree with you about indicating though, in fact I've seen a lot more close calls from people failing to indicate than from people speeding.

      Such an attitude would be fine, if speed limits were anything other than arbitrary markers that are not scientificallly arrived at. 110Km/h is fine on a SUBURBAN freeway but when you need to repeatedly negotiate vast distances you come to realise to 110km/h limit is completely non-sensical. I'd be happy for driver education to improve our skills as drivers collectively, but what is the point if we are not going to be permitted to use said skills to reduce travel times when travelling long distance? Its kind of like teaching someone advanced calculus before making them do multiplication all day.

      Speeding does not make you a criminal. i.e. It is not classed as a criminal offence like drink-driving, battery or murder. Speeding is a ridiculous notion that has little or no meaning. Do you know how speed limits are set? Why is it "safe" to travel at 60 on some roads but only 50 or 40 on others? And why 60, why not 55 or 20? And how come it is equally safe to travel at 60 at 3am, when you are the only car on the road, and also during peak hour in a hail storm or fog? It's like saying there is no difference between accidentally backing over your toddler and cutting his head off with a tomahawk. The inescapable fact is that there are times when it is much safer to drive 20km/h above the speed limit than it is to drive at the speed limit in other conditions. Speed limits are arbitrary and largely inappropriate and, as we don't live under a totalitarian regime, it should be perfectly acceptable to treat such rules with the contempt they deserve.

        Sorry, but this is crap. Sure, there's a degree of granularity to speed limits, but the idea that they are arbitrary is just nonsense. 40km/h limits are almost all around school zones or high pedestrian activity areas. Drivers (yes, even you, in your sports whatever) are bad at estimating what speed is safe. There's heaps of research that demonstrates this. So we need speed limits. You can bitch and moan all you like, but the world at large needs protecting from the hubris of drivers like you.

        Actually, forget it, why am I wasting my time?

          What are you actually proposing? Setting up limits for each different type of vehicle, for different weather conditions, different drivers ages, intelligence and ability? Or that everyone should be able to drive whatever speed they want at any time?

        "Why is it “safe” to travel at 60 on some roads but only 50 or 40 on others?"
        Actually, it is not "safe" at all. The posted speed limit is purely a maximum which is deemed under good visibility/normal traffic etc to be safe. You are still responsible for your speed and should be driving to the conditions. A speed limit does NOT mean the speed which you should drive at!

    I think I'd want to claim to be better than average, but that seems to be irrelevant here, and i understand i have a lot of ground to cover before being awesome :P .
    Speed does not kill in and of itself. Speed is a scale that changes the severity of the error you make. A mistake you make is still going to be the same mistake at 60 or 160. you still crash, and the risk of you crashing is there whether you were speeding or not.
    There is definitely a degree to which technology can save you. ABS, Seatbelts with pretensioners, Stability Control, better tyres, brakes etc. Stability control and ABS especially are able to save lives before it's too late.
    As was mentioned though, the real problem is driver education. I spent 5 years in learner programs (Through no fault of my own :P I started driving at 15.5 in America and you must be at least 20 to get your full license in australia) and through the whole thing, my parents were the only ones who provided me with legitimately useful material. Statistics being thrown at me won't make me a better driver, but getting onto a skidpan and knowing exactly how my car will act in the wet is very useful, yet i have never had the opportunity to do it. It should be required as part of a learning process.

    The other problem (definitely in NSW, i dunno about elsewhere) is the quality of the roads. If sufficient investment was made, it would be very easy to raise the speed limits on big roads like the f3.

    So yes, we need better drivers, but we need a better government attitude to it first.

      Technically, half of all drivers are better than the median, not the average (though with a normal Gaussian distribution, they're usually the same thing).

      While I'm on the maths thing, it's worth pointing out that by doubling your speed, you're quadrupling your energy. The difference in reaction distances between 30km/hr and 130km/hr is over 4x, but the difference in braking distances (and damage) is nearly 19x. It's non-linear - even small speed differences have a bigger consequence than we expect.

      In terms of technology, personally I'm eagerly awaiting self-driving vehicles (hurry up Google). The only way we're going to make any significant difference to traffic accidents is to remove the human element as much as possible. Let's save our manual driving for times when it's enjoyable, and automate the rest.

    I agree. When I drive to and from work in peak hour, I see all manor of fools driving around on the road. People sitting on other driver's rears, changing lanes without any indicating while cutting someone off, people driving up the shoulder, people driving 30km/h under the speed limit for no obvious reason, and many others. Hell I've talked to people who have seen people using tablets and laptops while driving in peak hour on motorways.

    I'm not a perfect driver, but never been in an accident, never got fined, and don't speed. My friends drive more crazily then me, cutting corners, speeding, cutting people off.

    I always smile when I hear someone bitching about traffic fines being revenue raising, that just shows that the fine has had the desired effect and hurt the offending party, perhaps even enough to make them take more care next time.

    retesting not gone help because knowledge of theory doesn't make you a good driver,
    some rules should really be adjusted to reality
    drivers who cant handle assigned speed limit (as well as old cars that cant go up to 100km) should be taken off road
    public transport should be cheaper...for me its .30-.80 cents more expensive to drive car to work thn to catch a bus (Im still gone pay same insurance costs since Im not planing to sell my car even if I'm gone take buss to work)

    as far as statistic goes there are hardly any prove that reducing speed limits result in less accidents...

    (just bunch of ideas on a topic)

    wow.....ok.

    lets get back to basics first.

    SPEED DOES NOT KILL.

    IF speed killed then you would die every time you got in a plane; Going at 300kmph, oh no! we are dead.

    what kills a human is either extreme deceleration OR impact causing damage to the body.

    the issue with 'speeding' as those who dont understand it (like yourself) is that, the signposted limit of a road is designed with a number of things in mind. The first is the quality of the road (i.e. how 'smooth' it is), the quality of the average car at the time (i.e. how well are the cars made), the surronding area (e.g. are there houses around or the middle of nowhere), the average time of day that would recive the median traffic flow (i.e. how busy is this road, how often) and a few other factors like average rain, heat etc.

    there is alot that goes into putting a speed limit on the road.

    Now, when driving on a road that is signposted for 80km, sometimes you need to slow down (like when it is wet, or there is alot of traffic), and sometimes it is ok to speed up (like when it is dry, and no one is around, AND you have a car that can take it).

    so you can see that there are times when it is ok to go slower, and ok to go faster.

    At this point someone usually says something like "but what is someone runs in front of the car?".

    well in answer to that question i would point out that hitting someone at 80 or 180 will end the same way, they will die.

    then the person says this "but if your going 80 then you can slow down quicker". This is true, however i would rather kill someone then make them brain dead for the rest of their existance.

    Also, all roads that have an 80km limit are either dual lane (meaning you can avoid someone running infront of you) or they are surronded by bush, meaning there is no one around anyway.

    At the end of the day you need to judge what the best speed for the road conditions is. For me, i always go faster on the freeways, as my car can handle speeds of 180 without issue (although i only go about 130, 140). And in the city i always go about 40, 50, even though the limit is 60.

    i am also a professional rally driver, on the weekends.

      The problem with this whole post is that not everyone on the road is a "professional rally driver, on the weekends". If that's true and not sarcastic then you clearly can't see that your skill and feel for a car and the road is far beyond the average driver. Hurtling along a tight forest road at high speed breeds an extremely different skill set than that of someone in their luxury car sitting in traffic on hoddle st.
      The point is speed limts and road rules have to be designed for the majority not for the few of us who understand physics, handeling and what the car is capable of.

        My point is that everyone SHOULD understand what their car is capable of. You should take your car to a skid / drift pad and see what happens if you drop the tail out.

        At the very least go to bunnings on a wet night and play in the carpark for a bit. Did you know in sweeden every kid needs to go on a rally track AND skid pad for their license?

        they are far better drivers then us :(

        you should, if need be, be able to travel 20k above the limit without issue (you are racing to the hospital for example).

        if you dont think you can do that safely then you need to practice till you can.

        Secondly, i dont say that everyone should speed, that would be chaos. However, there are a few out there who can do it properly, and should be able to do so without penalty (e.g. on the freeway, have the right hand lane 120 instead of 100)

          I agree completely... if you don't know what your car and you are capable of you will never learn anything beyond the basic road rules and hence you ARE a BAD DRIVER.

          As an ex-pat Canadian, married to a wonderful Aussie woman, I can tell you that speed, sorry EXCESSIVE speed will kill, speeding at 130 on a freeway sign posted at 110 is not dangerous.

          What will kill you is not instinctively knowing/understanding/experiencing COMPLETE LACK OF VEHICLE CONTROL (sorry for the caps). My wife, having never driven on ice covered roads prior to living in Canada will tell you, she is a much more confident controlled driver, especially in emergency situations.

          To explain my point, while we were driving down a gravel road in NSW, the car slid (slightly) on a section of deep gravel while we were going around a corner, the car fish-tailed a bit and she automatically counter steered and corrected the slide (something she'd never even heard of) but instinctively performed flawlessly after her ice road experience in Canada. The car came back into line with hardly any unsettling of the car or passengers, she then turned to me and said “I would have panicked before, but having driven on snow and ice it was a natural response to correct that slide. I would have hit the brakes when the car slid and crashed, but after driving on the snow and ice it all came so natural to me to correct the slide”

          You 'must' learn car control to be a competent driver, simply saying "I'm a good driver because I never speed or drive erratically" is a false statement, your only an average driver until an emergency manoeuvre is required and then you'll discover that your many years of "safe" driving mean nothing when you're out of control on slippery corner in the rain and sliding into the path of a Tractor/trailer unit on the highway.

          but driving that 20km faster therefore makes you a hazard, if for some reason (though it may be very unlikely) you lose control of the vehicle - it happens, i've seen it myself multiple times - or somebody else loses control of their vehicle then that 20km faster is yay much reaction time less you've got to react in a safe as possible manner.
          that being said even "safe drivers", 'good drivers" or drivers with advanced driving courses (commenting from my experience as a firefighter) still screw up some times, even travelling at 40km/h it is still bound to happen eventually.

            JD, I'm not saying that speeding in inappropriate conditions doesn't constitute a hazard, or course it does, but going 20 kmh or 12 mph (or the average fat guy's running speed) over the posted limit isn't going to change a vehicles dynamics and handling that greatly, unless of course as stated above, the conditions of the road require you to slow down.

            On a dry road, 20 kmh is hardly dangerous, but 20 kmh in a deluge like Victoria experienced today is fool-hardy. The trick is being a competant enough driver to understand the variables.

              20km/h, while it may not sound like much at all, is actually a fair increase in speed in relation to handling and vehicular control. losing control at 80km/h is a very different experience to losing control at 100km/h and while i understand your point, that it may be perfectly safe to rip up a highway slightly above the speed limit, you cannot control what the bloke in the vehicle 30m up the road might do.
              my point in my previous argument was that regardless of how good a driver you may be, no matter how fantastic the road may be, you cannot control everything around you, or even in some cases you may not be able to compensate safely for those hazards.

              http://www.damnlol.com/that-was-a-close-call-6087.html

              just happened to come across a perfect example.

            You could use that argument to reduce all speed limits to zero. The simple fact is that if everyone does what they are supposed to do, which is a simple matter of leaving an appropriate gap to the vehicle in front, there will always be sufficient response time to avoid a collision, no matter how much over the speed limit you are travelling. Of course, there will inevitably be circumstances when such speeds are not safe, just like trying to maintain 60 on Victoria Rd at 8:30am, but there will be plenty of times when it is completely safe.

            For any Aussie driver who is a real aussie (ie actually has been anywhere in australia outside of the BIg 3 Capital Cities) Driving on Gravel roads is a standard initiation, well that was when I was a lad. )One way to find the limits is to test them. Once you find the limits, then test a bit more, and eventually the limits become a little wider.) It never took us a trip to Canada to figure out "Counter steerng" (Cars as well as bikes).

            Ice in Canada sure is one thing, and Gravel Roads here is another (of course that is if you can find one these days (within 200km of any east coast city),) seeing we have more poorly maintained asphalt ,and less gravel roads.., cars behave differently on each, though I get, there is a similarity in response.

        +1

        I know I and my (performance) car are capable of travelling speeds of over 100km's I have 500hrs of Track experience, I know how a car handles at high speeds, I know how to control loosing control (Drift being my Motorsport) I know what to do when the unexpected happens, I have spun out alongside another car spinning out at speeds up to 140kms and this is a common occurrence for me on track.

        The point of it all is that Some people are capable and others are not, and it all comes down to knowing 'your" limit, you will find that people 'think' they can handle these conditions without any experience at all and more than likely they end up being the ones in accidence.

        I have a clean driving record and I do 150-170kms on the forest highway, with in mind that i adapt to the conditions of the road. The only thing i am really worried about when driving at these speeds are revenue cameras and holden omegas, lol.

        I know care bears are going to cry about my reply here, but I know more than what some average driver would know..

          +1 MotorMouth - tailgating is my top irritation! So dangerous, so common. (And it should be able to be enforced by cameras, like speeding and red light running - not sure why nobody has done it yet...)

        Is rally driving your profession? You make good points but it just doesn't jell when you say you are a professional... on the weekend. Did you ever rally drive full time and now your in semi retirement? If you are a great driver... And you probably are then you will know that it is not about you it is about the other people on or beside the road... with you. You need to drive in response to them and the speed limit and the multiple reasons for the selected speed limit. Treat yourself as a great driver and that one moron that doesn't act as you expect them to act will kill themselves at your hand or both of you or more, or worse, leave you brain dead. (My wife helped setup a road trauma recovery department in the UK and you are right about that being worse at time). Your points are valid but they are made from a lofty pearch. The bulk of us (and I am a crap driver and should know more about my car and how it handles) are probably nowhere near your standard and because we are just that you need to be a little less absolute.

      For all those who reckon that you need to state the obvious that speed 'literally' doesn't kill, I'm pretty sure that anyone with an IQ of .0001 can understand the concept that speed literally doesn't kill.

      Alex, wasn't claiming that if you hit 100KPH that you'd simply give up the ghost. Taking a statement like that literally is stupid and demeaning to those who 'understand' it's meaning.

      Now, with regards to doing a speed because your car can handle it, is also stupid. Why?

      Because of the unknowns. 99.9% (yes, I made up the stat, please don't take it literally) your trip will go smoothly - regardless of speed or driving ability. However, in that 0.01% of the time (again, not literal), there will be some level of 'unknown'. This may be a driver in a stalled car, a kangaroo jumping (or wombat walking) over the road or a cloaked UFO that's landed on the road (please, again, don't take that literally either. UFO's don't land on the road, they land in paddocks).

      I can guarantee you that your 180KPH car won't protect you too well good when you swerve to miss it and hit a tree or (since we're being literal), you hit a roo at 180 and it goes through your windscreen.

      Come on people! Speed 'can' kill (regardless of your automobile). Why? Because when in an accident, the faster your travelling, the greater chance of fatality.

      Oh, and Peter Brock was a V8 and rally driver too. Fat lot of good that did him eh?

        When i pointed out that speed doesnt kill, i was alluding to the fact that most people seem to that that going 5k above the limit makes you a killer, a criminal and the worst kind of person on the planet, and by this they are idiots.

        Instead of "speed kills" adds from TAC, i would rather see "driving like an idiot, talking on the phone, drinking, drugs, and not understanding your car kills"

        I would be fine with that :)

        Now, will i die if i am going 180 (i dont btw, i go about 130-140 depending on the number of cars around, where i am etc) and hit a roo?

        YES! and you know what, it is my fault and i deserve it.

        the signposted limit is 110-120 in SA, where you are most likely to hit a roo along their awesome roads. going at 140 (only 20k +) on this road is not more or less dangerous.

        As i have always said, you need to take into account many, many things when choosing to go at a speed limit, and the signposted limit is only one of them.

        going at 80 through the CBD is dangerous, and going at 80 on the freeway is dangerous.

          Where is your god now?
          The overall road traffic safety of German autobahns is comparable to and in some cases better than that of other European highways. According to the statistics collected by the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group,[9] there were 2.2 road user fatalities per billion vehicle kilometers on German autobahns in 2008. Neighboring countries with available data include Belgium (4.2 in 2007), the Netherlands (2.1 in 2009), Denmark (2.5), Austria (4.2), Switzerland (1.2), and France (1.8). Using the same statistic, 4.5 fatalities have occurred in the United States on motorways.

          AUTOBAHNS German highway with no speed limit

            Most Autobahns I have travelled on have speed limits, ranging from 100 for some of the really old sections to 130. I've driven from Munich to Frankfurt, via Prague, Leipzig and Berlin and I reckon that less than one-third of all those autobahns were unlimited. I also had more emergency situations on Autobahns than I have ever had anywhere else in the 36 years I've been driving, because it is really hard to pull a Zafira full of people up from 150 when the traffic piles up behind roadworks. I found myself looking for an escape route through the central reservation on several occasions. Luckily, I never really needed it but it put my heart in my mouth a few times.

              That also depends on the season you are driving. As well as the actual roads.
              If it is winter a lot of the roads are limited to 120. (Drive from Aachen to Salzburg in winter and you may not see a single section unlimited.
              Then again, from Heidelburg to Franfkurt at the same time, and the same snow and Ice on the roads, unless there is roadworks, the whole road will be unlimited.)
              Then again drive from Munchen to Salzburg, and a 2 lane goat track will be unlimited, with advisory lights, advising 120 km/h if icy..
              Summer many more roads are unlimited.
              The 130 (blue) sign at the border as you drive into Germany, is merely an advisory for the Tourists....
              Besides this, in Germany, Disregard the speed limits at your Peril.

        Also just adding. Driving at higher speeds increases your awareness and alertness. This a proven fact

        (see Mark skaife's theory on driving at 140kms)

          Haha, Autobahns don't have roos and wombats wandering all over them either.

          Australia also can't have a Very Fast Train without either surrounding it by 10' high fences or elevating it like a monorail for the same reasons.

            Seriously, I live in a rural area with a massive population of roos, cattle, sheep and emus with unfenced paddocks. Kangaroos and other wildlife are only a real threat at around dawn and dusk when they are active. Again this just reinforces the fact that the whole idea of driving is not risk avoidance , it's risk management. Most people could easily manage 140km/h outside of built up areas if they were permitted.

              I live in Country WA.

              And yes they do mainly come out at dawn/night. Obviously i my driving habits change to these conditions since i am aware of what's to come due to the signage and bush areas, Forrest highway is fenced most of the way and i have yet to see a dead roo/animal on the road.

              I have actually done 140kmph on that road whilst an undercover office was doing the same speed (could tell from the uniform/console/arials/and interior police lights -was a late model holden)in the lane next to me for the majority of the highway, pretty sure we had that mutual agreement that 140kmph was 'cool bro'

            What about Deer, Pigs(Wilde), Livestock, these are all able to wander across Autobahnen the same as in Australia.... There's only a barrier to jump...

            Red Roo at 100 or Red Deer at 100 I will take the roo any day....

            WE have hardly any hazards on our roads not found everywhere else....
            (Even the Average Driver is as bad in most places....) Note, Median does not 'mean' GOOD, usually The median or Mean of any distribution, where skill and performance matters is all bad...

          "Proven fact" and "Theory" do not belong in the same context in that post.
          If something is a proven fact, then it should not lie in theory, ESPECIALLY when that theory is coming from a racecar driver. Anyway.
          >>Driving at higher speeds increases your awareness and alertness.
          It doesn't increase your reaction time, which is what you need the most when that 3 year old child runs out in front of your $200,000 sports car and you're going an extra 10 k's over the speed limit.

      The point isn't if you hit someone going 80 km/hr that they will die. It's that the stopping distance for 80 to 0 and 180 to 0 are vastly different. Like by several factors over. You said you would far prefer to give them a fast death than a slow death if you hit them, here is a better option. Don't fucking hit them in the first place.

      Even the difference between 65 & 60 is several meters.

      I'm lucky, I was trundling through an intersection about four months ago at about 20 when a four year old kid literally stopped, turned and sprinted out onto the road I stopped with not much room to go. It wouldn't have been my fault, but shit I just don't want to be a part of someone dying.

      Technology can play a part no doubt. But it doesn't mean we should rely on it, as what happens when it fails? It's much like regular driving now. When people pay attention people are theoretically great drivers. It's what happens for that split second when you aren't paying attention, AND something goes wrong AND the person near you isn't paying attention and can't avoid the accident. The second person may not be at fault, but they are in a position to prevent the accident which is a secondary backup.

        20km/h huh? lucky you weren't doing the 40/50/60/70......km/h speed limit at the time.

        Were you driving a modern well maintained car with good brakes or an old bomb that can only come to a complete halt on an upward stretch of road?

        Were you looking where you were going or were you stuffing around texting or talking to your passengers?

        It all counts but glad you missed the kid just the same

        You weren't lucky. You were paying attention. Unlike so many other crap drivers i see on my 12km commute to work - doing makeup, reading The Age (wtf man?!?! that's A2 size!), on the phone, etc, etc.

        They're the asshats that don't realise that they're drifting lanes or going 40 in a 80zone while reading the paper so that they'll have enough reaction time and distance to stop, etc. They're also the same asshats that get angry at you for telling em off.

        More than likely it was a detective.

        Policing speed is for traffic. Nobody else does it unless forced.

        Seriously?

        A $200,000 sports car at 10kms over the limit will stop faster than at least 95% of the vehicles on the road. A performance vehicle by definition is safer than average as steering and braking ability is vastly more important to the engineers designing the vehicle than selling it at a specific price point.

        Would you rather be staring down a 10 yr old camry driven by someone with no interest in driving or a
        $200,000 sports car (obviously driven by someone keenly interested in driving) going 10 km/hr faster? I know what my choice would be!

      I could tell by the username this comment would be absolute horse shit, but I didn't guess how ridiculous and ignorant your points would actually be.

      You are a nutcase and I'm guessing borderline sociopath. You probably won't care much when you kill someone with your car, but I reckon the resultant prison term will sort you out. Not in a good way, obviously.

        I take it you are refering to me?

        please explain this bit:

        "I could tell by the username this comment would be absolute horse shit"

        what does that mean?

        i know i troll sometimes, to get a good laugh out of the apple fanbois, but i was not trolling with this comment.

        if you know my ID well enough to know my comments, then you should know the difference between me having a joke and me being serious.

        I dont understand how you can say my comments are ridiculous and ignorant without seeing that alot of people agree with me, OR providing other points to counter mine.

        Finally, you think that i am a nutcase or borderline sociopath, and that i probably won’t care much if i killed someone with my car. Well, the first point is your opinion, so i cant really say anything to that other then i disagree, the second one is a term based on societies definition of the work at the time so is irrelevant (or could i be proving your point by saying that?) and as for killing someone? I would hate myself if i killed someone without just cause, and probably couldnt live with myself.

        (i say 'just cause' because if someone rapes my sister for weeks on end, i dont see why they should continue living)

    I hardly know where to start, so I'll start with the obvious. Speed does NOT kill. Near-instantaneous deceleration kills. If you don't hit anything, you can travel at any speed you like in complete safety. Every driver's focus should be on avoiding a collision, not on maintaining an arbitrary speed, regardless of conditions. Thinking otherwise is simply wrong-headed.

    As for driver education, everyone with a license knows the road rules but the simple fact is that most choose to ignore any they feel shouldn't apply to them. Why? Because they know they have almost no chance of being caught. If you want to see better driving, you need to have the laws enforced all the time. e.g. When I started driving in 1975, you would be booked every day of the week if you drove around with a "dead arm" hanging out of the window but these days I see it dozens of times every day. How the hell is a driver going to react to an emergency situation with one arm several seconds from the controls? It should be a 3 point offence with a huge fine because it shows total disregard for the safety of others.

    But there is a problem here. Back in the 1970s you had reasonable confidence in road markings and signs. e.g. If there was a STOP sign, it was always at an intersection with restricted visibility and you were an idiot if you didn't stop and take a good look. But these days councils put up STOP signs willy-nilly, to discourage drivers from using suburban streets and for other spurious purposes. It is hardly surprising then, that people don't have the same respect for STOP signs any more. It's a similar story with double centre-lines and many other things that should be employed to give real, useful information to drivers.

    Overall though, the biggest problem is that they have made driving too easy, too safe, which means that people no longer put any effort into it. Rules like "give way to your right" have been consigned to history but the need to keep those kinds of rules in your head forces you to concentrate much harder on driving. And concentration is the key to avoiding collisions. I know most of my near-collisions occur when I let my mind wander and there is no better way to let that happen than to just sit in traffic and allow myself to be carried along like a sheep to the abattoir. To avoid that, I try to drive faster than the traffic, always looking several hundred metres down the road and calculating my options. As a result, I have not had a single ticket since 1995, despite getting around in a succession of sports cars, because I never miss the speed camera signs and I always see possible problems long before they became actual dangers.

    The problem then becomes how to force people to concentrate on driving. There are plenty of things that can be done. Zero tolerance enforcement of all road rules would be an excellent start. Another would be to outlaw comprehensive insurance, making people responsible for any damage to their own car (keep 3rd party coverage, though). Technology could also help here, with things like dynamic speed limits allowing people to drive at speeds more appropriate to the conditions. e.g. Higher speed limits late at night when traffic volumes are low and lower limits in bad weather.

      I personally agree with a lot of this. I started motorcycling a year ago and, boy, when your life is on the line you want your awareness at 100%. It feels like car drivers don't care enough.

      (I know there are idiot motorcyclers too.)

        Congrats for getting on two wheels! Welcome to the family... honestly, all drivers should be required to spend their first year (at least) no a powered scooter, something very light and underpowered.

        Nothing teaches you how to concentrate on the road and the conditions infront of you like riding a power cycle (not a pushie).

        Yes I know its not practical for everyone to ride a bike for their first year, but really, it would make 99% of the drivers out there today better drivers.

        When you life is in your hands, your concentration and alertness are much more highly polished. This extra polish transfers to 4 wheels as well.

      That had nothing to do with you it was all due to other factors which in the end had nothing to do with 'speed' itself so that claim is not entirely a valid one.

      on a major highway where the speed limit is 110kms/120 there would not be a random 4 year old kid wandering out onto the road 120kms away from a residential/populated area.

        No, there are much more random things like kangaroos, wombats and galahs that pose a serious threat to you and other motorists around you. There are also punctured tyres, which pose a far greater threat to safety at 110 than they do at 60. How often do you see a shredded truck retread on the road? How quickly could you react if the truck right in front of you shredded one as you approached it at 110? There are plenty of dangers on the highway.

    "We could raise the status of the “average” driver by increasing the level of driver education or mandating regular testing of drivers even after a licence is granted"
    This.
    Driving is a privilege not a right. Some people believe they have every right in the world to drive, and to drive whatever way they want. We have laws for a reason. Wethere you agree with them or not, they are there to safeguard the pubilc.
    Most drivers do not realise they are in complete control (or not) of 1.5tons of metal traveling at speeds capable of causing serious injury or death.
    Most drivers do not realise they are driving a weapon. Just like you wouldnt fool around and do stupid things with a gun, the same goes for a car.

    This country already has some of the lowest accidents rates in the world. This will not improve by changing speed limits or implementing more cameras. This needs to be addressed by education and a much tighter driving exam.

    "Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that's what gets you." Clarkson

    But seriously, I agree. I am by no means a Mark Webber. Several hundred thousand k's on country roads mixed in with a fair bit of stupidity in paddock bashers and buggys (And in my younger days, on country roads in overpowered v8's and rotarys going far too fast) has given me enough sense to realise that A) I'm not invincible in a car and B) that the only way to survive on the roads is to assume that all other drivers are idiots who are trying to kill you.

    Having said that, the speed limits on highways in this country, especially in rural and regional areas are too low, in my opinion. In some cases the low limits can be justified by the shocking quality of the road surface and the driving ability of the general public. However there are several roads which could easily have speed limits of 120+ km/h, while still being relatively safe.

    Additionally we need to have a minimum highway/freeway speed limit which is enforced by the police. Caravan drivers are the source of much frustration on coutry roads, driving at 80 or 90 in a 110 zone. I've followed one doing 70. Almost all of the stupidity I have ever witnessed on the roads is the result off people overtaking a slower car or truck or (most stupidly of all) an L or P plate diver. The 80km/h speed limit for L platers is fine for suburban areas but on a highway with a speed limit of 110km/h it is an accident waiting to happen.

    Additionally, the government needs to pour some of he money it raises from speed camereas in to driver training. Not just stupid tests, actual training in cars on skid pans so people can see just how easy it is to loose control. Learning what to do in an emergency isn't something you can learn about by reading, it is something you have to experience.

      I believe in Victoria L and P platers are not speed limited. I do find this NSW rule rather odd.

        and terrifiying... having taugh an L plate driver in NSW, that 80 KMH rule for L and red P plates is the most dangerous and ridiculous laws that NSW has ever implemented.

        While teaching my niece to drive to Merimbula from Canberra on highway 18 (100 kmh for the most part), she was constantly being run up her backside by other drivers who were pissed that she was going so slow. '

        She would have preferred to do the proper speed limit and not have to risk everyone lives, but the idiots in NSW can't seem to understand that this is a dangerous and risky road rule.

        I didn't realise it was only a NSW law. That makes it even worse. The stretch of highway I drive all the time is 110km/h and is littered with L and P platers. I've seen so many close calls with idiots trying to overtake in stupid places. I recall almost being taken out when i was on my L's by a person trying to overtake in a stupid spot. From then on I never did 80 on the highway on my L's.

        We have the 80kph limit for Ls and P1s in Tasmania too. It kind of makes sense but it often feels dangerous when cars come up to you at 20kph faster and are eager to overtake.

    Alex, no need for anecdotes when it comes to discussing how well people perceive themselves as drivers. A quick search of Google Scholar provided numerous citations (no pun intended) for research in this area. In short, the evidence supports your comments: most people think they’re better than average drivers.

    The interesting point from some of the research is that the more confident people are in their driving skills, the lower their perceived risk. This implies many people under estimate the risk.

    I’ve had speeding fines too. I was in the wrong and paid them, but I haven’t had one since becoming a dad. Once that happened I realised "it is not all about you". You may understand the risk (though see point above), and accept the risk, so you decide to speed. But you have to remember that you are wilfully putting others at risk also. Or think of it this way; others are putting you and your family at a notable risk of serious injury or death by deciding to speed.

    What amazes me, is that for all the safety gadgets we can now add to our vehicles there doesn't seem to be one that won't let you speed?
    All you'd need is some kind of camera mounted in a position to read the speed signs and regulate speed based on that. Super easy I'd imagine.

    The lack of such a device speaks volumes about the way the government and police benefit from revenue obtained by people speeding, and in a way means they are actually encouraging us to do it.

    I speed and have been caught with a pretty big fine. However if I had a device that throttled my speed accordingly I wouldn't be able to and I'd have a few more hundred dollars in my pocket.

      The problem with a device that limits your speed is that in some circumstances it can be incredibly dangerous. I was driving on the Pacific Highway earlier this year and I was beside a truck when their lane ended quite quickly; this gave me three choices:

      1. Swerve across the double lines and risk being hit by oncoming traffic
      2. Hit the brakes and risk being clipped by the back of the truck (I was closer to the front of the truck)
      3. Hit the accelerator and do 20km/h over for a few seconds to get ahead of the truck.

      I chose option 3, if I hadn't been able to exceed the speed limit temporarily then the situation would have been far more dangerous.

        Agreed. the ability to get out of danger is why I prefer faster vehicles. that and they generally have better brakes as well.

    100 km/h just isn't very fast. As someone who lived and drove in the US for years, the average speed limit on highways is 70 mp/h, or just over 112 km/h. Interstate, the speed limit is anywhere from 80 to 90 mp/h, depending on which state you happen to be driving through at the time. That is a legal speed limit of up to 145 km/h.

    Granted the per-capita accidents is higher in the US (at around 12 fatalities per 100,000 people as opposed to our 5) but look at Germany, with lower fatalities per capita than and their Autobahn. Driving sensibility has much to do with it, and I've noticed it extensively since being back in my home country.

    Your article articulates my thoughts on it very well.

      Good roads also havea lot to do with it as well. Australia's road surface is generally shockingly bad when compared to the US, let alone the Autobahn.

        You are delusional or completely uninformed if you think Australian roads are inferior to roads in the US.

          Really? I was only talking about the Interstates which were mentioned above, which are much better than a lot of our highways.

    "This is true, however i would rather kill someone then make them brain dead for the rest of their existance. "

    That is NOT your decision to make!

      Do you think that i have a choice whether someone lives or dies?

      you can drown in 2cm of water, you can die by being hit by a hard hat that fell off a building, you can die from drinking to much on the weekend, and you can die by being hit at 5kmph.

      do you really think that anyone chooses this? or that anyone makes this choice for them?

      your comment is academic, as is my response.

    An automatic data gathering for every car will help. Something akin to a blackbox for flights.

    Say in an event of a crash, cops just need to extract the info and it will show gps location for the past say 30 mins, velocity and distance to the vehicle in front or behind. Of course sonars and gps will be mandatory for this to happen.

    IF this ever happens though, expect logistics companies and truckies to be in hot water for a while.

      Most new American and Aussie + Jap cars do have this 'black box' you talk about. Most Audi, VW, BMW and Merc dont.

      i know what i want to get.

      (the audi or VW, no Big Brother for me thanks)

    Good topic. Coming from a QLD green P plater, I would have to agree that speed isn't the issue. I live in mackay. You can google us and find our potholes, our shotty highway. We have terrible roads that are always undergoing roadwork. We also live on the bruce highway to some degree.

    The worst thing is when people aren't doing the speed limit. Everyday I'm behind a truck, caravan you name it that can't or won't go over 80 in a 100 zone. This is what causes accidents. Also we have nearly 1 fatal accident a week due to fatigue, drinking, bad roads, etc. Drive to the conditions is what really matters. And people with open licenses are no better then us.

    But "speeding" is a purely arbitrary concept. With the stroke of a pen, a government can decree that a speed that wasn't speeding on Monday becomes "speeding" on Tuesday. Given it is so arbitrary, slogans like "speed kills" are mindless.

    I'll honestly put myself in the below average bracket. This is simply because I'm honest that despite thousands of hours behind the wheel I've never completed an advanced dricing course which would clearly show my shortcomings and train me to be more than simply a novice despite my many hours behind the wheel.

    Knowing this I'm prepared to improve. Most Australian drivers I know are not inclined to take an honest appraisal of their abilities. So we would fail to meet the driving standard of some of the much stricter driver training regimes such as those used in Germany. AU just doesn't meet the grade for testing requirements and accreditation.

    Another driving article, another load of people unwilling to admit they're part of the problem.
    -signed a several times potential roadkill in the last year alone

    More structured training and testing needs to be implemented. Who cares about filling out a log book to say you drove in certain conditions.

    In Sweden they make kids take tests on tracks sprayed with oil to test their ability to control a vehicle while in a spin. They also make sure you can check things like oil levels, brake pad wear etc to ensure you are driving a safe vehicle.

    You don't "make" safe drivers, you train them, and that's what needs to happen.

      In Sweden they have ice to contend with. What would be the point of teaching everyone how to correct a slide when they are 16 if they can drive until they are 60 before they ever need to do it? With ABS and ESP, it is no longer a relevant skill for the average motorist.

    The reason that the message that "speed kills" encounters such resistance is because it suffers from a massive credibility problem. People intuitively understand that increasing speed increases the severity of an imact. They also understand that it increases the likelyhood of an accident by reducing available reaction times and reducing stability and handling margins. No problem. We all get it.

    Unfortunately theyalso intuitively understand that speed limits are arbitary and are set based on absurdly simple rules. 99kph is not massively safer than 101kph on a 100 limited road, attempting to say it is as an unassailable principle undermines the credibility of the message.

    They also understand that safe speeds are relative to the conditions. 60kph in a 60 zone may be safe on a dry day, but unsafe late at night in the rain. They also realise that cars perform and handle better now than they did when these particular limits were established. It is unsurprising that even people who may feels that they are bad drivers would still regard themselves as better judges of what speed is safe and appropriate at any given time than the rules that set the speed limit.

    People also know htat there are other factors that come into play in accidents. There is the assumption among a large proportion of drivers, correct or not, that vehicle speed is probably not the primary cause of a very large proportion of accidents, and they probably also assume that speed is not even a major contributor in causing most accidents (as opposed to their severity)

    They realise that speed is extremely easy to police, while other factors such as fatigue or inattention are almost impossible, which leads to the suspicion that speed is singled out for this reason. Combined with enforcement methods like speed cameras that separate the negative stimulus (the fine arriving in the mail) from the actual behaviour (the act of speeding) it makes peple cynical about its purpose, particularly for those who are already dubious about its role in causing accidents.

    None of this should be taken as implying that excessive vehicle speed is not a major contributor to accident frequency or severity. Nor should it be taken as endorsement for individuals to drive at whatever speed they feel is apropriate in all circumstances. I am simply pointing out that if anyone is going to make a convincing argument that speeding is dangerous, or that more speed enforcement is going to be a prime factor in improving road safety, they need to address these facts if they expect to have any success in convinciong the majority.

      Totally +1 to this... (cool name too btw).

    The sooner we run out of oil and have to go back to horses the better I say.

    The number in the red circle is the maximum. That's it. Doesn't matter if you are an F1 world champ.

    See the number in the red circle? Don't go above that. Same rule for everybody. It's pretty simple.

    Oh, you can safely go faster than that? Doesn't matter. I can safely buy groceries naked, doesn't mean I should

    What, you don't like that rule and think it's stupid? Cool, then don't drive on the roads.

      For the trips taken, more people were injured in traffic when we used horses than after the introduction of cars.

      Plus. the whole "its the law, too bad" is a meaningless argument. What if the number on the freeway is dropped to 60, or 40? Are we are allowed to think that is stupid, or do we just have the choice to accept it or not drive at all?

        "For the trips taken, more people were injured in traffic when we used horses than after the introduction of cars."

        That bit was a joke. I mean horses don't even have seatbelts.

        "What if the number on the freeway is dropped to 60, or 40? Are we are allowed to think that is stupid, or do we just have the choice to accept it or not drive at all?"

        If they change the limit on highways to 60 or 40 then your only option is to do 60 or 40 and think it is stupid. BUT... Democracy is pretty cool, if you don't like the law then protest, form a lobby group of like minded people, get your local member on side. You might even change the law.

        If there is valid scientific data to support increased speed limits then make it happen. Unless you are doing something to change speed limits you have no right to complain about them

      That is the most simple-minded and just plain stupid attitude I've seen on this page. Do you seriously believe that no government has ever got anything wrong in their entire existence? That there is no need at all to justify any laws they pass or decisions they made? We just accept every little thing they throw at us and suck it up? If you really believe that, you are pathetic and should not have the right to participate in our democracy.
      Here are a few questions to ponder. Why is the speed limit 60? It used to be 35mph but when the metric system was introduced it magically changed to 60. What was the reasoning behind that? Why is it perfectly safe for an 85 year-old man to travel at 110 on the F3 in a 1964 EH Holden but not safe for me to ravel on the same road at 130 in my late model sports coupe? Laws need to make sense and I've never seen any compelling evidence that speed limits do.

        "Metric Conversion" seems to be a concept that completely flew past you in primary school. I'll break it down for you:
        1 Imperial mile = roughly 1.6 Metric kilometres.
        Thus: using the above formula, 35 miles comes to around 56.33 kilometres. Add in the rounding for speed limits and you get 60 km/h, which is the next whole number. I can't believe I had to explain that to you.

        Also: It's safe for the 85 year old dude to travel at 110 because that's the arbitrary speed limit deemed safe on that road. You can't do 20 km/h over that because it has been scientifically deemed "unsafe". It's like doing 100 km/h in a 50 km/h zone - you might think you're safer and whatnot, but anyone else driving through that zone is going to think you're an idiot, as I already do. The arbitrary limit could be there because of how safe it is to take the turn, or whether other cars doing the same speed are able to stop for a hazard, or any other reason. There's not a man in a suit sitting in front of a map, picking numbers and locations out of a hat and then assigning that street a random speed limit. Actual thought goes into it - more thought than has gone into your disappointing slag-pile of a post.

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