It stands to reason that if anyone knows about the importance of safer vehicles in reducing road injuries and fatalities, it would be emergency first responders who deal with road trauma daily. New research on the personal attitudes of police officers towards vehicle safety, however, suggests that may not always be the case.
A survey of the 1400-strong NSW Traffic and Highway Patrol Command (THPC) asked about the safety level of private vehicles THPC workers use, their attitudes to vehicle safety, the safety of vehicles used by younger drivers in their family, and barriers to accessing safer vehicles. It found:
- More than half (57%) of THPC members drive a private vehicle that is 5-star ANCAP rated.
- Two thirds (65%) said vehicle safety features were a factor in purchasing decisions and another 17% said it was the main factor. It was not a factor in almost one fifth of purchases (18%).
- About one third (30%) cited cost as a barrier to purchasing newer, safer vehicles. The private vehicle driven to work is more than 10 years old in one quarter of cases.
- When it comes to younger drivers, children of THPC workers always or mostly drive a 5-star vehicle in 61% of households. For those with children who have purchased or are about to buy their first car, 80% did discuss the importance of vehicle safety features.
- Almost 3% said they were not concerned with vehicle safety.
NSW Police Snr. Sgt. Mick Timms, THPC Work Health Safety Officer, says the survey shows cost is a major barrier to purchasing 5-star ANCAP rated vehicles for private use. He acknowledges that while there are costs for families in purchasing safer cars, costs to society from driving older, less safe cars include hospitalisations, injuries and fatalities. There are also costs to employers, through lost productivity, worker absences, workers compensation, and recruiting and training new staff.
He believes survey outcomes demonstrate the need for meaningful community education on the importance of vehicle safety and for financial incentives for motorists to update to vehicles with improved safety features, particularly for younger drivers.
“It can be difficult to convince the community that fatal and serious injury crashes happen to good people and that safe systems are a way for them to reduce crash severity,” Snr. Sgt. Mick Timms says. “If there are knowledge gaps among police, this would be reflected in the wider community and would probably be greater.
“Aside from the human cost of road trauma, recruiting, training and retaining personnel represents a considerable financial undertaking, so it should therefore be in the interests of all employers to reduce crash severity regardless of whether workers are on or off duty.
“Employers concerned with the safety and welfare of their workforce may gain an understanding of their employees’ road safety knowledge through this type of survey process and road safety stakeholders might be able to better target awareness campaigns at knowledge gaps.
“The bottom line is that road safety is work safety and vice versa.”
NSW Police invites organisations to use the survey to understand what their workers are driving to work. This can act as a conversation starter for understanding why safer vehicles matter. Join Mick for his webinar on the 27 June or access the survey used and full Thought Leadership article at www.nrspp.org.au
NRSPP Further Reflections
Now if you reflect upon the vehicles you started driving in when you were young, just starting out were the safety features even in front of mind? The focus was typically on just getting your license, then a vehicle and being mobile. The people most likely to be involved in a crash are put in the most unsafe vehicles.
An organisation like NSW Police whose workforce see the impact of road trauma see this all too frequently. Safe vehicles are part of the work mantra, yet the safe vehicle does not translate outside of work for a portion of their workforce.
When did you consider that the average age of Australia’s vehicle fleet is 10.1 years but those involved in fatal crashes is 12.9 years are people making informed decisions when choosing their vehicle? How many people check ANCAP or How Safe is My Car? before buying what may be their first vehicle as it is this decision which could have the greatest impact on a road user’s future.