The Northern Territory news Sat 23 Jan 2010
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22 Northern Territory News, Saturday, January 23, 2010 www.ntnews.com.au P U B : N T N E W S D A T E : 2 3 -J A N -2 0 1 0 P A G E : 2 2 C O L O R : K e r3 0 0 6 1 3 Bad attitude WORST RECORD IN NATION: Northern Territory Police Commissioner John McRoberts says now is not the time for complacency on our roads Road users are overfour times more likely to be killed on Territory roads than elsewhere in the country POTENTIAL KILLERS: Drink-drivers put everyone, not just themselves, at risk on the roads I T WAS 2am when the police car pulled up in the driveway of a suburban family home. Inside, the occupants were fast asleep, totally unaware of the shock they would soon experience. As they crossed the well manicured lawn, the police officers knew there would be tears and disbelief as they explained what had happened and asked the question, who can formally identify the body? now at the mortuary. It happens daily somewhere in Australia and often is the result of a motor vehicle crash, most of which could and should have been avoided. In 2008, 1464 lives were lost on Australian roads, 75 of them here in the Territory. On the bright side, our road toll last year was the lowest on record at 31 but now is not the time for complacency. According to the National Road Death report, Northern Territory road death rates average around 34 people per 100,000 population, compared to the national average of approximately seven people per 100,000. In other words, road users are over four times more likely to be killed on Territory roads than elsewhere in the country. Police and other government agencies are not sole custodians of the road safety agenda. Each and every one of us has a part to play if we are to achieve the 40 per cent reduction in the number of fatalities per 100,000 population by the end of this year, as set out in the 2001-2010 National Road Safety Strategy. There is no doubt thats a hard task, but an achievable one if we all commit to it. For some time now, much emphasis has been placed on fatigue, speed, drink/drug driving and seatbelt use as the causal factors of most serious injury and fatal road crashes. There is good reason for that because we know, more often than not, one or more of those factors led to the death or serious injury of someones friend, relative or loved one. But I believe attitude is the silent killer in many crashes and I have the evidence to prove it. Since 2000, there have been 193 crashes in Darwin where NT Police concluded the driver disobeyed traffic lights. These crashes resulted in four lives lost and 58 serious injuries. One has to ask, why? Traffic lights are a simple but effective way of controlling the movement of traffic. Everyone knows the risk involved in contravening them, yet it continues on a daily basis and more people will die unless there is a change in driver attitude. Still in doubt? In a recent national survey of attitudes, when asked how likely it was that they had driven over the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) limit in the past 12 months, 9 per cent of Territory residents said very or fairly likely, compared to 4 per cent nationally. One might argue that is just a survey but the sad fact is that our own police data from the latest Christmas period shows that one in every 44 drivers stopped for a random breath test were over the limit compared to the national average of one in every 120. As a responsible driver in the Territory you are three times more likely to encounter a driver over the limit than anywhere else in the country. Speed cameras critical factor in saving lives GUILTY: Victorias Deputy Commissioner for road policing Ken Lay I WAS recently in a Canberra restaurant when a fellow Victorian approachedme. He wanted to share his views about how unfair the Victorian speed cameraswere, particularly those secret oneswithout awarning. He said the NSWspeed camera approachwasmuch fairer. Youmight not be aware, he explained, but in NSWGovernment clearlymarks where fixed cameras are with large signs. Hewas keen to add that once past these cameras, he could again increase his speed up to hismore usual 115-120km/h. I listenedwith interest as he toldme that theNT had the safest roads in Australia because there had been no speed limit on themajor highway. With pride, he explainedwhen he lived in NT he could release a lot of frustration by riding hismotorcycle at 200km/h. Youwouldnt understand, he suggested, but living in the Territory was pretty stressful and hot, and this is the way thatmany young blokes release that tension. My new-found friend listened politely as I explainedmy view that the widespread use of speed cameras in Victoria had slowed down average speeds andwas a critical factor in delivering a second consecutive record low road toll last year. I also pointed him to recentmedia commentary outlining howNSWhad experienced a horror year on the road with an increase of 80-90 deaths. Many attribute this increase to the winding-back of theirmobile speed cameras. I further explained that the NT death rate per 100,000 head of populationwas the highest in Australia, and I was not aware of any measure that suggested they had the safest roads by a long shot. My friend nodded politely, but with that blank look that indicated I had not swayed his view. Frankly, I should have takenmy own advice. Recently, I was returning to Melbourne after a speaking engagement in Barham, on theNSW andVictorian border. I had been driving for almost two hours when I approached a small hamlet. I slowed to 80km/h as I passed through. Threeweeks after this trip, I received a letter from the Traffic CameraOffice explaining that I had been snapped doing 80km/h in a 70km/h zone. The speed camera had been set up in the small town. I had no recollection of speeding and I had not seen the covert camera. The truth is, I had nomemory of even driving through the town. Road policing deputy commission ers should not get booked for speeding, so I have taken time to reflect on how this could have happened. I amprobablymore aware ofmy obligations to drive within the speed limit than any other road user in this state; however, on this occasion, either through being distracted, tired or simply not concentrating, I had placedmyself in a difficult position. I know I have letmyself downwith thismomentary lapse. I have let down my commissioner, police colleagues, and other road safety partners. I have also let the community down. Despite this, I feel a sense of relief, becausewhat happened could have beenmuchworse. I am aware of any number of crasheswhere Victorians have killed or been killed in circumstances similar tomine distracted, not concentrating or fatigued, and driving 10km/h or less over the limit. This speed camera finewas an expensive lesson that has resulted in my first penalty notice after nearly 35 years of driving. I will now carry demerit points for three years. Although I could have sought a warning for this offence, because of my position I have chosen to accept the fine and points. My experience has further reinforced the need forme to be evenmore vigilant when I amdriving a car. It has remindedme, despitemy position, and evenwith the best of intentions, I likemany Victoriansmade a fundamentalmistake. Amistake that could have costme somuchmore. Back tomy friend in Canberra; he ended our talk suggesting that covert cameras dont change behaviour. Aftermy first-hand experience, I am more confident than ever that they do. Please drive carefully. Ken Lay is Victorias Deputy Commissioner for road policing. Victorias Deputy Commissioner for road policing KEN LAY explains how he was caught speeding and debunks the myth that NT roads are the safest in the country. Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner and CEO JOHNMcROBERTS discusses the importance of road safety