A former Western Australian traffic police officer who now works as a transport solutions specialist for a leading telematics provider has compiled an overview of some of the most misunderstood road laws and common driving hazards.
Chris L’Ecluse is determined to help make Australian roads safer and, as part of Australia’s Road Safety Week, has drawn on his experience as a police officer in the western state to share some safe driving tips.
“Most drivers understand that obvious infringements such as driving under the influence or texting behind the wheel are dangerous, but might be unaware of the risks associated with everyday habits, like driving well below the speed limit,” said L’Ecluse.
He proceeded to describe some of the biggest risks and safety issues facing Australians on the road today:
- Around 23 per cent of all crashes are caused by failure to give way.
- Fatigue has the same impact on your brain as drink driving.
- One in five drivers admit to breaking more road rules in rural areas.
- About 75 per cent of serious injuries arise from single vehicle crashes where the vehicle leaves the road.
- Over one in four drivers killed on Australian roads have a Blood Alcohol Concentration over the legal limit.
- Speeding is a direct factor in around 30 per cent of all road accidents.
- More than three people per day are killed in road-related deaths.
- Distractions like mobile phones contribute to 71 per cent of truck accidents.
“I spent 20 years as a police officer in WA and retired as a sergeant,” said L’Ecluse.
“During that period I did a lot of crash investigations, highway patrol and police driver training which gave me a comprehensive understanding of road trauma and the factors that can lead to it – the things people do in their day-to-day lives that can impact their safety and that of others around them.”
L’Ecluse said that road trauma is indiscriminate and happens to people from all walks of life regardless of race, age or gender or whether the person is a driver, passenger or pedestrian.
“I’ve had the displeasure of having to pick up the bodies, body parts and carnage and knock on the doors to tell people their loved ones won’t be coming home – as a young officer in uniform, that really sticks with you,” he said.
“With traffic crashes my job was to investigate and determine who failed or did something which caused the collision,” he said.
“To date, I’ve struggled to find a crash that wasn’t caused by human error – that couldn’t have been prevented by human action.”
L’Ecluse added that no vehicle is safe enough that the occupants can’t be killed in a serious collision and that it was a real shock to his system when he first joined the force and realised that everyone in a motor vehicle is only a few metres away from a tragic outcome if something goes awry.
“On rural highways there is a mere two metres separating opposing vehicles travelling at 100km/h – which means a closing speed of 200km/h; and yet we know nothing about the person controlling the other vehicle. We don’t know whether they have a licence or are impaired by drugs, alcohol or fatigue,” he said.
L’Ecluse stressed that contrary to popular belief, fatigue is just as dangerous as drink driving. He said many people mistakenly believe stopping for a coffee every two hours will energise them sufficiently to keep driving safely.
On the contrary, he said, coffee offers only a short energy boost, peaking at roughly 15 to 45 minutes after consumption.
“It’s recommended that once every two hours drivers pull over and take a 15-minute break to stay alert. Drink water, get out of your car, have a stretch and take in some fresh air,” he said.
L’Ecluse also touched on another common misconception where many Australians believe experience equals skill while driving.
“As we age, deteriorating vision, impaired hearing and slowed reflexes all have a major impact on safe driving,” he said.
“We also get complacent, forgetting important road rules through learned unsafe habits – it’s important to stay educated.”
Finally, he remarked that while you shouldn’t exceed the speed limit, driving too slowly isn’t the answer either.
“Driving under the speed limit can create chaotic and dangerous conditions for other drivers, particularly on motorways. It can also lead to fines of up to hundreds of dollars, depending on the state you’re in,” he said.