Young drivers ‘increasingly at risk from truck ignorance’

Swinburne transport expert flags threat of increased urban living

Young drivers ‘increasingly at risk from truck ignorance’
Swinburne University of Technology associate professor Nicki Wragg


Generations of young drivers are set to hit the roads with little if any idea of safe driving around trucks, according to Swinburne University of Technology associate professor Nicki Wragg.

The warning comes a year after the National Truck Accident Research Centre (NTARC) flagged a spike in young women drivers involved in fatal heavy truck collisions and three months after Swinburn students embraced an Australian Trucking Association/Volvo youth safety campaign.

The fear is that rising inner city populations and demand for new road infrastructure "could lead to more collisions, serious injuries, and possibly fatalities involving heavy vehicles, such as trucks".

Wragg points to three factors that together make a focus on young drivers’ safety knowledge around trucks crucial:

  • 18-25 year old drivers are four times more likely to be involved in serious or fatal crashes and notes that
  • 80 per cent of road fatalities involving heavy vehicles are mainly caused by the other party and that around 63 per cent of these other parties are aged 21 or younger
  • truck numbers on Australian roads are expected to double in the next 20 years.

She notes the Swinburne students interviewed more than 200 participants aged 18-25.

"They found 80 per cent never considered the truck industry and so weren’t aware of the risks involved with sharing the road with heavy vehicles," Wragg says in an article in academic commentary website The Conversation.

Read about the campaign on young motorists safety around trucks here

"Half of the participants thought truck drivers were aggressive and unskilled, 20 per cent were completely unaware of the location of blind spots on trucks, while 60 per cent were vaguely aware trucks had blind spots.

"Most underestimated the time it took for trucks to brake to avoid crashes."

Their research may also point to one possible tactic to raise awareness of issues such are truck blind-spots along with other points.

"During their preliminary interviews, students discovered that 98 per cent of people in light cars noticed truck-side advertisements. Some of the ideas they came up with included communicating the blind spots through colour on the sides of the truck," Wragg says.

"They also devised interactive games, to highlight the stupidity of driver behaviour when pulling out in front of a truck, to be screened during quarter time at football matches.

"Road safety is a shared responsibility. Making our roads safer requires the support of organisations, industry, businesses, community groups and individuals.

"Design is well placed to translate the complexity surrounding the issues and develop behaviour change campaigns that educate and motivate."

While some notable state-centric efforts at dealing with the problem are highlighted,  they are seen as scarce and occasional.


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