Why do we make safe behaviour so hard for drivers?
ACRS, DOI:10.33492/JRS-D-20-00255, https://doi.org/10.33492/JRS-D-20-00255
Submission Date: February 11, 2021 Journal
- Submission Date: June 18, 2019
- Revised Submission Date: 18th October 2019
- Acceptance Date: 18th October 2019
- Available Online: 13th November 2019
Suggested Citation: Williamson, A. (2021). "Why do we make safe behaviour so hard for drivers?". Journal of Road Safety, 32(1), 24-36. https://doi.org/10.33492/JRS-D-20-00255
Despite significant improvements in road safety in Australia and developed countries over some decades, the downward trend in fatalities and serious injuries has slowed markedly, and even stalled. New strategies are needed to turn this trend around. Current road safety philosophy, the Safe System, has been effective, but needs broadening to increase the scope of solutions. The Safe System accepts that road users make errors and that the road system should be forgiving of those errors. This leads to countermeasures that emphasise limiting consequences of crashes like lowered speeds, crashworthy vehicles and roads. The problem is that conceptualising road-user error as inevitable ignores the fact that many roaduser errors are caused by poor design of the road system including roads, vehicles and road rules. It means road safety overlooks productive avenues for prevention of road-user error and crashes. This paper discusses this issue with Safe System and provides examples of poor road system design that make it difficult for road users to behave safely. This includes poor road rules like inappropriate speed limits, inadequate road design such as poor signage and confusing lanemarking, inadequate vehicle design that limits vision or provides false visual information, as well as problems with driverassistive technologies: cruise control, automated driving and warning systems. In each case the paper discusses how poor design fails to account for human capacities making it hard for road-users to behave safely. Importantly the paper looks at solutions to these problems and provides some new principles for Safe System.