Yarraman sergeant Sean Relf shares his thoughts on Road Safety Week.
Yarraman sergeant Sean Relf shares his thoughts on Road Safety Week. Barclay White

Hidden psychology behind driving: Part 1

YARRAMAN officer in charge and forensic crash investigation officer Sean Relf shares his thoughts on keeping safe on roads:

ROAD Safety Week is an opportunity to look at what we can all do to improve our safety on the roads and talk about issues affecting us.

I am often asked about road safety and the fatal five contributing factors of speeding, drink driving, fatigue, failure to wear seat belts and driver inattention and how they apply to everyday driving.

Fifteen years of Forensic Crash investigation experience has unfortunately given me an insight into serious crash incidents and yet when I explain those factors I am reminded of how each of these are influenced by the state of mind and attitude of the person behind the wheel.

They all begin with the driver's approach to driving, before they even enter the car. I often ask motorists if they would do the same thing if they were not in a vehicle, after witnessing driving acts that places themselves and others at extreme risk.

For instance, would you walk uncomfortably close behind someone if you were walking through a shopping centre? Now think about the person who follows another vehicle too closely in their own vehicle.

Notwithstanding this act puts both themselves and the other innocent driver at risk of injury and death, why would a driver consciously choose to do this knowing the obvious consequences when they wouldn't do this if they were walking through a shopping centre?

Would you just cut in front of someone walking along peacefully, causing them to stop or slow down suddenly? Why does being in a vehicle change someone's thinking to somehow believe it is ok to do so?

Apart from being pretty inconsiderate, doing so in a vehicle impacts on their safe stopping distance and increases the chance of a collision, causing them to brake and take steps to create a safe distance between both vehicles.

How we think about driving is vitally important in ensuring we have the right attitude to safely operate our vehicle.

We all personally know those people who delight in telling us they can drive safely in excess of the speed limit because they are 'better drivers than most', making all manner of excuses to justify their strange belief that the laws of physics and the frailty of the human body somehow apply to everyone but them and the people in their own vehicle.

If you however asked them if they were prepared to do something purposely that will endanger the lives of others around them without relating it to driving a car, they would declare 'Absolutely not!'

So why is driving a motor vehicle so different?

Why do some believe they have the right to endanger the lives of complete strangers so readily and quickly, with no justification except that which lies within their own beliefs, to provide a disconnect from the realities of their actions?

A correct conscious choice in the first place, prevents the reality of things going wrong down the track.