Demerit debate

Drivers are being encouraged to take care this long weekend. Photo: Liam Murphy.

WA Road Safety Commissioner Adrian Warner is urging road users to take care this long weekend as double demerits come into effect.

Double demerit penalties for driving offenses will continue to be enforced from today until 11:59pm on Monday.

Since the legislation was passed in the WA Parliament in 2002, the double demerit strategy has been a controversial topic, with some questioning its effectiveness in improving road safety.

Mr Warner believes the strategy is working and is protecting WA road users.

“From all the evaluations that we’ve done periodically over the last 20 years since double demerits first came into WA, everything points to the fact double demerits work.”

Adrian Warner

He says the policy is just one of many strategies the commission has implemented to ensure WA road users can continue to travel safely over this Easter holiday period.

“Education campaigns are one of our key strategies, along with promoting double demerits in conjunction with police, along with a more active police presence in holiday destinations. These are proven tactics in trying to minimise lives being lost and serious injuries occurring.”

He says more than 80 per cent of road users say they adjust their driving behaviours during double demerit periods.

When first introduced, the trial found the daily number crashes reported over a five year period decreased by 7 per cent, during double demerit periods.

But Professor Maxwell Cameron from Monash University’s Accident Research Centre, who has worked in the road safety field in Australia since 1965, says the double demerit strategy is yet to be proven effective.

“I think the double demerit strategy is popular in WA and NSW because no one has actually researched this measure properly. It has intuitive folk appeal, but if you put the blowtorch on a good scientific evaluation, I think there would be serious doubts if you could show it is truly effective.”

Thousands of Western Australians are expected to hit the road and head down south this weekend. Photo: Liam Murphy.

Professor Cameron says he has had a lot of trouble getting data from governments regarding the effectiveness of double demerit laws.

“WA and NSW have had a long history of either not doing evaluations on road safety measures, or if they do them, they don’t publish them. I’ve had a lot of personal experience with this, because we do a lot of contract research for those governments.”

Fixed speed cameras are one of many strategies used to catch drivers speeding. Photo: Liam Murphy.

Professor Cameron agrees combining strategies is the most effective way in reducing the risk of road accidents.

“Advertising seems to change behaviour, but if you couple it with an increase in enforcement, you get a so-called synergistic effect, where the two together achieve reductions in road trauma.”

Mr Warner says the best way to avoid any infringements or accidents this long weekend is to slow down and enjoy the ride.

“Don’t rush to get there; make the journey as much as part of your holiday as the destination is, go with the flow, don’t rush to overtake, and get there safely.”

Categories: Crime, General, Transport, Travel

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