Nation-leading driver safety by Sunshine Coast researchers

A team of Sunshine Coast researchers is tackling one of the biggest causes of deaths for the world’s adolescents – road crashes.

In nation-leading research, a team from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) is investigating and trialing a series of programs aimed at keeping young drivers safer on our roads.

Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad yesterday met with the USC-based research team during the State Government’s governing from the Sunshine Coast.

Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad said around a quarter of all road crashes in Queensland involved a young driver/rider aged between 17 and 24 years old.

“While adolescents constitute just 10 per of the population across the globe they represent close to 27 per cent of all road crash fatalities. That is tragic. That is way too many young lives taken way too early,” said Ms Trad.

“Research being undertaken here is assessing existing programs and developing new ones with the aim of addressing an issue which is not just a problem in Queensland and Australia, but around the world.”

Ms Trad said Queensland Treasury’s Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC), which regulates Queensland’s compulsory third party insurance scheme, provides significant funding to a range of road safety-focused programs, including several being undertaken at USC.

Yesterday the Deputy Premier met with Dr Bridie Scott-Parker and other researchers from the Adolescent Risk Research Unit (ARRU) team at USC’s Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience – Thompson Institute, led by Professor Jim Lagopoulos. She heard first-hand the impact of their SAFER (situational awareness fast-tracking, including identifying escape routes) program that enhances the skills of young drivers, particularly during the provisional licensing phase.

Broadly based on a trial with her own pre-learner daughter, Dr Scott-Parker said SAFER differs from traditional road safety learner approaches in that it targets young novice drivers prior to them obtaining their learner’s permit.

Central to this study is the seating of the pre-learner in the front passenger seat with their attention focused on the driving scene as if they were the driver, while their parent/mentor verbalises everything occurring on the road and the risk management steps they are employing to reduce their risk of being involved in a road crash.

Two pilot programs of SAFER are currently underway in different contexts – young drivers and peer passengers – and their preliminary results are very promising. The pilots have helped young people to improve their situational awareness before they enter the first stage of solo driving in the provisional licensing phase.

ARRU researchers are working on a number of other projects including initiatives focused on older drivers, the impacts of lack of sleep, driver stress and emotions, and driver discourtesy. The ARRU team is also assessing another MAIC-supported program, the PCYC Braking the Cycle mentor-learner initiative at Nambour.

Research findings from the ARRU have been shared widely at international conferences and conventions and in key safety and research publications ensuring findings from the Sunshine Coast projects gain worldwide exposure and promote better well-being for adolescents worldwide.

While visiting the university, Ms Trad also took the opportunity to officially co-launch the new USC Road Safety Research Collaboration Unit with USC Vice Chancellor, Professor Greg Hill. The research unit is jointly funded by MAIC and the university.

Led by Fulbright scholarship recipient Professor Jeremy Davey, this research unit will work closely with MAIC, Queensland Transport, Queensland Police Service and local stakeholders to contribute to the evidence base that will inform future road safety policy and practice in Queensland. This collaboration commenced in February 2019.

Last modified 16 August 2022


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