Driver’s not to blame – The Government’s failure to address road safety

99 Australians were killed on our roads in June 2015.

Mums, dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.

In the last week alone we have lost 3 innocent lives in Tasmania. Every night we tune into another horrific car crash – somewhere in Australia.

We have heard it all before. Nothing shocking it seems. No one cares?

What would you do to protect your family member, friend or workmate from being in a fatal car crash?

The current stance taken by the Government is to spend more money on improving roads, putting up barriers and throw in some television commercials.

Police play a very passive role in road safety – with a focus on speed enforcement often while ignoring many of the other dangerous driving acts like tail-gating, dangerous lane changing and even simple issues like people failing to wear a seat belt.

As a society – we seem to somehow accept people driving who are tired, had a drink or two or who are unwell and not fit to drive. Nearly everyone would admit to doing one or more of these in the past.

No one likes to be told they are a bad driver.

Everyone thinks they are a great driver.

Does our current licencing system really prepare young drivers for real road conditions? Does it simulate the stresses, pressure and many hazards we face everytime we get behind the wheel? Are drivers medically and psychologically in a condition to drive?

I have over 20 years in the driver training industry. I teach people road safety who already have a drivers licence and I hear the same thing over and over.

Drivers are not provided with enough information, training and skills to handle all situations on the road.

These are drivers who attend one of our programs to comply with workplace health and safety requirements. In what is usually just a one day program they are provided with knowledge and skills that helps them drive more defensively, alert and to appreciate and manage the many risks associated with driving.

The Government discounts the value of these programs – thinking that defensive driver training programs involves hooning around a racetrack with zero relevance to road safety. This is completely incorrect and demonstrates the lack of interest shown in these programs.

A considerable percentage of our business is providing this training to Government departments. This is common across other providers that I have spoken with.

When we have directly approached the Government to get assistance with funding for programs we are told that there is no proof that this training works – over and over the same response.

Driver’s are not to blame – they are handed a licence after driving around the block and then allowed to blast around at 100km/h or more – in all weather conditions sharing a road network made up of tired, impatient and poorly skilled drivers.

The fact that modern cars are much safer, roads are being designed better and the all important crash barriers are going up left, right and center – why are we still killing 100 Australians a month!

Driver education is the only answer.

As a nation we must prepare our drivers better. We must make available the opportunities for drivers to practice and upskill.

Most importantly – we must accept responsibility for how WE drive.

What do we need to help reduce the numbers of fatalities in Australia.

Access to facilities to deliver training – Currently we are forced to pay thousands of dollars to use facilities that are often privately owned and sit empty a lot of the time. This makes up around 50% of the cost of any course that we provide and sometimes more. The Government must work towards opening driver training complex’s or subsidise the hire of these facilities for driver education.

Recognition by the Government of post-licence driver training programs – Programs are already nationally recognised by the training authorities – but until the Government supports these programs many drivers will sit on the sidelines.

Funding – We do not agree with an introduction of compulsory defensive driver training as a solution however we would like to make this training more affordable for all to attend.  Funding could be directly arranged to approved providers or reimbursements could be offered against registration, licence costs or CTP.

As an industry that has survived based on our own merits and has been adopted by many industries – we think it is time that we had the support of the Australian Government and the ability to provide a higher standard of training to more drivers.

Our industry is important. We can and will save lives.

Let’s get the political support we need to make some changes – and deliver drivers the training they need – so that we never have to deal with the tragic loss of a loved one from a preventable road crash.

This is not the first or last time I will raise this argument – but I think that the sooner we can get people trained properly – the sooner we will see a massive difference in the way people approach driving.

I can be contacted directly to discuss these items in more detail and welcome any feedback or suggestions.

[email protected]



Mark Butcher is the managing director of Performance Driving Australia. A Tasmanian owned and operated business that delivers quality road safety programs Australia wide. With over 20 years experience in training both in Australia and overseas – Mark has designed programs for all environments from city driving, country driving, desert and snow fields. Mark has worked with Top Gear, the Australian Defence Force and many Government Departments.

Website – www.PerformanceDrivingAustralia.com