According to statistics from Transport Accident Commission (TAC), road crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for young people aged between 18 and 25 in Victoria.
In 2018 the TAC reported that more than 300 young drivers aged 18 and 25 had lost their lives in Victoria in the last 10 years, representing just less than one in four of drivers lives lost in Victoria in this period.
As a result of these numbers, the Department of Transport (formally VicRoads) created the initiative, Road Smart, a road safety education and training program for Victorian Year 10 students, aimed at reducing the amount of deaths and serious injuries on the road.
Road Smart Coordinator Joe Seddon says the program teaches students about the importance of taking a staged approach to learning to drive due to young and inexperienced drivers running the biggest risk on the roads.
“They are overrepresented in crashes. Learner drives are the safest of all road users, because while learning and gaining more driving experience they have a supervising driver in the car with them as their guide,” says Seddon.
“As soon students are on their P-plates driving solo they can become over-confident and are more likely to take risks. Road Smart complements Victoria’s Graduated Licensing System which since it’s implementation has reduced youth road trauma, however there’s still more work to do in this space.”
Road Smart launched in March 2018 and has recently gone through a series of enhancements, following feedback from the school community, including parents and students.
The program is a foundation which sets students out to be safe road users, whether that is as drivers, pedestrians, cyclists or passengers in cars.
The Road Smart program’s focus is around thee ‘Safe System’:
- Safer Speeds – students learn the importance of traveling at safe and appropriate speeds;
- Safer Roads – they gain and understanding of what makes a road safe, for example safety barriers or roundabouts;
- Safe Vehicles buying a first car is an exciting time for students, it is vital they have the tools to help them choose the safest car available to them, within their budget;
- And Safer People: students learn that every choice they make on the road increases or decreases their risk of death or serious injury, for example not using your phone while driving or getting into a car with someone who has been drink driving.
Consisting of four components, the program includes an interactive classroom session with a Road Smart facilitator, eLearning for learners and their supervising drivers, a free in-car session with a qualified instructor, and a resource toolkit for teachers that is linked to the Victorian Curriculum.
“The sessions generally run for about 60-70 minutes however we can adapt to suit most timetables. We present to up to 30 students at a times, so for larger schools we send out multiple facilitators to run the sessions concurrently or can run a number of sessions over one or several days,” Seddon says.
“The reason to the limit being 30 is to increase engagement and we encourage students to be involved with the presentation.”
Following schools being surveyed, the Department of Transport found that most Year 10 coordinators and school staff, particularly PE teachers agreed the program had positively contributed to the decision making and behaviours of their students, with almost all schools choosing to re-book the following year. r
Road Smart also tailors its program to suit its audience, depending on the experience level of the group of students.
“If they’re at the start of their learning to drive journeye we will talk more about the fundamentals of driving. However, if we are at a regional or rural school where the students have more experience driving, because they have access to it, we will tailor it to be more progressive,” Seddon says.
With COVID-19 creating a number of challenges for schools, Road aSmart was also impacted by the pandemic.
Due to having to cancel all of its in-class sessions, an online offering was introduced in 2020.
“We worked with a design agency who converted our presentation to online delivery, which allows for a Facilitator to still run the session via the schools preferred online platform such as teams or google meet. In 2021 schools have the option of booking a session in-class or online, depending on COVID-19 restrictions in place.” Seddon says.
With an overall aim of helping students become safe and independent road and transport users, Seddon emphasises that the program is not about teaching them to drive, but about the Safe System and the importance of taking a staged approach to learning to drive.
“We continue to work to achieve the vision of no deaths or serious injuries on our road, and it starts with the next generation,” Seddon says.