Opinion

Why young drivers don’t know enough about trucks

Young drivers don’t know enough about how to stay safe around trucks. That’s the key finding from a new research paper from the road safety experts at the University of Newcastle. The research was funded by the ATA.

Young people aged 17-25 make up 12 per cent of the population, but account for 19 per cent of Australia’s road fatalities. 

This research is an important step forward in developing effective road safety communication and behavioural change projects. It confirms our understanding that young people are overrepresented in road crashes and identifies the risk factors that are likely to increase collision risks between young drivers and trucks.

The university’s head of School of Psychological Sciences, professor Kristen Pammer, said the research suggests increased collision risk between trucks and young drivers is likely due to young drivers having underdeveloped awareness and hazard perception skills, as well as a substantial knowledge gap of the performance limitations of trucks.

“This increased collision risk is also likely exacerbated by young drivers engaging in risky driving behaviours around trucks that increases driver distraction,” Pammer said.

“We intend to better understand and minimise these risks by researching how young drivers currently behave around trucks, how education initiatives can increase young driver awareness of truck performance limitations, and whether these initiatives can effectively change young driver behaviours to minimise collision risk around trucks,” she said.

While truck drivers are professionally trained and their vehicles are fitted with modern safety technologies, they cannot control the behaviour of those around them on the road. 

It’s time to rethink traditional road safety messaging and deliver campaigns with real cut-through. The research tells us that many young drivers are growing numb to traditional fear appeals, with messages that generate a positive response like pride and humour proving more effective. 

The key to reducing collision risk? Research-based, targeted driver education, such as SafeT360. 

Launched in 2019, SafeT360 is an immersive educational initiative that teaches young road users how to share the road safely with trucks through virtual reality technology and interactive messaging. This innovative approach is evidence-based. Young people don’t want to be lectured, and they love to learn in ways that are fun and hands-on.

This research is the first milestone in the ATA’s visionary, long term campaign of funding research to understand how to educate light vehicle drivers and develop their understanding of how to be safe around trucks. 

The review recommends that educational initiatives aimed at increasing young driver awareness of trucks and truck safety be evidence-based, undergo rigorous evaluation and be delivered in a way that increases young driver perception skills while reducing their risky behaviour around trucks.  

Our SafeT360 program was built on this approach and was designed to support research that governments and industry can draw on in developing future campaigns. 

SafeT360 delivers informative, innovative and evidence-based messaging that saves young lives, and without the support of its sponsors BP, NTI, Volvo, Australia Post and the Australian Government, this would not be possible. 

To experience SafeT360 yourself, head to safet360.com.au.

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