Timely Christmas Warning to Slow Down

Friday, 17 December 2010

Speeding drivers admit they are more concerned about calculating the risk of being caught than the risk of being hurt - with most fearing a speeding fine over injury or death, a study by Queensland University of Technology has found.

Dr Judy Fleiter, from QUT's Centre for Accident and Road Safety Research - Queensland (CARRS-Q), surveyed more than 800 drivers in Queensland as part of her PhD research into what influenced drivers to push the limits.

She said while her research found self-reported usual driving speeds varied substantially from 40km/h to 100km/h on 60km/h roads and from 60km/h to 145km/h on 100km/h roads, most speeding drivers she interviewed played the numbers game when behind the wheel.

"They are calculating, or really miscalculating the risk of speeding," Dr Fleiter said.

"Their biggest fear is getting caught, and many believe that they 'know' how to evade detection."

"The study found that many drivers admitted slowing down at known or anticipated speed camera locations and that some actively seek information from other drivers about camera locations, particularly when travelling on new or unfamiliar roads.

"But the problem with drivers taking a calculated risk, is that they are calculating the risk of getting caught and not the risk of getting hurt."

Dr Fleiter said the results suggested there was a general lack of appreciation of the risks associated with speeding among some drivers and a lack of understanding of the likelihood of personal harm and harm to others in the event of a crash.

"Some drivers reported the perception that they could survive a road crash at speed but that their passengers may not," she said.

"There seemed to be a lack of understanding that at high speeds, many road crashes are not survivable, no matter who is driving, how skilled that driver may be, and how good the vehicle is they are driving.

"It's important to remember there is no such thing as safe speeding.

"The laws of physics dictate that human bodies are not designed to sustain the forces at work when vehicles collide at speed.

"Travelling faster means you take a longer time to react and a longer distance to stop and it also means that the faster you drive, the harder you hit."

Dr Fleiter, who is also a member of QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, has been awarded a four-year Postdoctoral Fellowship by the National Health and Medical Research Council to further investigate speeding and speed enforcement approaches in Australia and China, as a follow on from her PhD research in both countries.

The fellowship coincides with the start of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020) which focuses on reducing the huge burden of trauma associated with road crashes globally.

"This is an important opportunity for all countries to tackle the issue of the destruction caused on our roads," Dr Fleiter said.

"Every day, approximately 3000 people die as a result of road crashes around the world and all countries are being urged to stem this largely preventable loss of life."

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