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New research: young car drivers don't know enough about trucks

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17 August 2021
  • There is little driver education material for young drivers that relates to sharing the road safely with trucks. 
  • 19 per cent of Australian road fatalities were young people aged 17-25 years, despite making up only 12 per cent of the population. 
  • Many young drivers are growing numb to traditional fear campaigns. 
 
A new research paper shows that young car drivers do not know enough about the performance limitations of trucks to be safe on the road. 
 
The paper is the first output of the research partnership between the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and the University of Newcastle School of Psychological Sciences, Australia.  
 
Head of School Professor Kristen Pammer said the review suggest that 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,” Professor Pammer said.  
 
“We intend to better understand and minimising 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.  
 
Acting ATA CEO Bill McKinley said the paper was an important step forward in developing effective road safety communication and behavioural change projects.  
 
“The paper 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,” Mr McKinley said. 
 
“The paper reveals many drivers are growing numb to traditional fear appeals, with messages that elicit a positive effect like pride and humour proving more effective. It also tells us that research-based, targeted driver education, such as SafeT360, is key to reducing collision risk. 
 
“This work is the first milestone in our long term, a visionary campaign of funding research to understand how to educate light vehicle drivers and develop their understanding of how to be safe around trucks,” he said. 
 
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,” Mr McKinley said. 
 
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.  
 
The paper was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.