Safer Vehicles: Is our own house in order?

Author(s): Timms

Slidedeck Presentation:

6B - Timms - Safer Vehicles


Traffic and Highway Patrol Command is responsible for road policing in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW). There are 1,350 police in the command.

Speaking at the annual state Road Policing Conference in August 2017, Mr Bernard Carlon, Director of the NSW Centre for Roads Safety, told the forum that only one third of the all light vehicles on NSW roads are rated at 5-Stars by ANCAP, the Australian New Car Assessment Program.

Safer Vehicles is a pillar of the NSW Safe Systems or Towards Zero approach to road safety (www.towardszero.nsw.gov.au) but why has take-up of 5-star cars been so slow? Mr Carlon's comments and recent incidents where police were involved in crashes on their way to work gave rise to these questions:

1. Do our workers and their loved ones have the highest level of occupant protection when driving their own vehicles?
2. As frontline road policing specialists exposed to the consequences of road trauma, do our officers have sufficient knowledge of Safer Vehicles to inform their own judgement when buying a vehicle for themselves or novice drivers in the family?

Traffic and Highway Patrol Command has officers based in some 70 locations throughout the state. NSW itself is about 86% the size of British Columbia but with a 40% larger population.

This study used an 11-question survey accessible via Survey Monkey. It was promoted in the command's monthly newsletter and followed up by an email to all staff inviting them to participate. The survey was open for 16 days and responses were voluntary and anonymous. The survey received 172 responses. This was a pleasing response as it equates to around 20% of the workforce depending on absences over the period.

The command can take some comfort from most of the findings which include:
* 57% of workers drive a private vehicle that is 5-Star rated
* For 60% of workers, at least one vehicle is 5-Star rated
* In 61% of households, children of workers always drive or mostly drive a 5-Star vehicle
* In 82% of cases, vehicle safety was a factor in deciding what car to buy
* 30% of respondents cited cost as a barrier to purchasing newer, safer vehicles
* 3% of respondents were not concerned with the issue of vehicle safety

The free text question provided a range of views as to the importance of vehicle safety compared to other factors such as speeding and impairment. Some views expressed diverged from expert testimony of Mr Carlon to the Road Policing Conference that 'the newer the car the less the severity of the crash outcomes we see'. The findings did suggest that more can to be done by to promote the importance of safety ratings and features that contribute to safer vehicles.

If there is a knowledge gap among those in law enforcement as to what Safer Vehicles means, then that the gap could be much wider among the general public.'