Thursday, 18 December 2008 5:43 PM

Crash Takes Two Young Lives

Its sad to hear of such young lives being cut short in such a tragic way. Making seatbelt wearing compulsory should now be a must although, while compliance with wearing seatbelt might not be absolute, even partial compliance should significantly reduce fatality rates. In a much bigger picture, I would like share some views on our motor vehicle drivers licensing policy.

Getting a license is an exciting time for most people. The freedom to drive without supervision opens up various opportunities for work and socialising. In many ways, it represents an important milestone on the journey from being a teenager to an adult for the young especially in our growing urban towns and Honiara where the number of vehicle is growing at an alarming rate.

But the rising accident rate of young drivers means that this freedom also comes at a very high a cost. Motor vehicle accidents are complex events, usually the result of interactions between three categories of factors: human, vehicle and road. In a study of more than 15,000 crashes in the USA, it was found that human factors, which include the actions of the driver (such as speeding) and condition of the driver (such as the effects of alcohol, inattention and age) were a definite or probable cause in about 93 per cent of crashes (GAO, 2003) (G. Smith, 2004).

I'm not sure how stringent our licensing policy is or its contents for that matter but in some western countries, it is typically known as Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL). GDL has become the most prevalent form of licensing for young (or new) drivers in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA all having some form of GDL program in place. While the components of GDL programs tend to differ amoung states and countries, the common thread is that they" gradually introduce new drivers to more complex traffic environments as they gain experience" (Travelsafe, 2003).

`According to Whelan and Senserrick (2003), GDL works on four key levels, by:
- maximising the driving experience and maturity of the young driver by increasing the "restricted" licensing period;
- allowing young drivers to acquire experience by driving in low risk situations;
- encouraging practice by having regular tests; and
- rewarding safe driving and punishing illegal driving.

GDL programs are generally composed of three licensing levels: the "learner" stage, during which driving is supervised by a full license holder; the "intermediate" stage, which allows unsupervised driving though is subject to various restrictions; and the "full" license stage, which is achieved on successful competition of the two prior stages` (G. Smith, 2004).

From the outset though, our current licensing policy seem to allow just about anyone getting a `full license` just after three months of a Learner's license (`L`-plate) and as long you provide lunch for the supervising officer during your testing day. Instead of just preaching safe driving, I believe its time for an overhaul of our drivers licensing policy. May the souls of these young lives rest in peace!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of J.Nuake and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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