Learning to drive around vulnerable road users

Released 22/08/2016

The ACT’s young motorists will soon undergo new training, assessment and enhanced testing of road rules, focusing on how to drive safely around pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

Minister for Road Safety, Shane Rattenbury, today announced the details of a new driver competency, which will require learner drivers applying for provisional licences to undertake additional training and assessment on how to drive safely around vulnerable road users.

“I’m proud to say that the ACT is leading the way in this space.” Mr Rattenbury said.

“The change means that learner drivers will be required to demonstrate good observation skills, risk recognition and management, and display appropriate and calm decision making to mitigate and avoid risk and harm to any vulnerable road users.

“It’s really exciting that more and more Canberrans are choosing to walk and cycle around Canberra.  However, it’s important that we ensure that our road rules can accommodate all road users safely, and that all road users are aware of these rules.

“The learner will be required to perform  tasks throughout an entire assessment unaided by the licence examiner, recognising the potential harm they could cause to pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists.”

Training and assessment of the competency will be undertaken using a wide variety of different road and traffic conditions where vulnerable road users may be encountered. This includes roads with green bicycle lanes and marked bicycle lanes, driving through slow moving and stationary traffic where motorcyclists may be lane filtering. It will also focus on areas with high numbers of cyclists and pedestrians, such as shared zones, town centres, group centres, aged care facilities, and school zones.

Mr Rattenbury said that the road rules test, which must be passed to gain a learner licence, will also be enhanced to make sure learner drivers understand the road rules that protect vulnerable road users.

“We’ve added over 20 new questions relating to vulnerable road users, which will be incorporated in the road rules knowledge test. This section of the test will require 100% correct answers in order to pass,” Mr Rattenbury said.

Dr Marilyn Johnson from the Monash University Institute of Transport Studies and the Amy Gillett Foundation supported the changes, saying they provide an evidence-based approach to driver training and assessment in a modern road transport environment.

“In Australia we've done a great job of improving safety when we're inside our cars. But we haven't done such a good job when it comes to training new drivers about the potential to cause harm to other people they share the road with, particularly cyclists and pedestrians,” Dr Johnson said. 

“With this new vulnerable road user competency, the ACT Government is taking the lead nationally to make sure new drivers develop skills in scanning, checking and interacting with pedestrians and cyclists including safe passing distances. 

“Importantly, this new competency is evidence based, informed by findings from a study I recently completed with Dr Jennifer Bonham from the University of Adelaide, funded by the NRMA-ACT Road Safety Trust. 

“Whenever we drive, we have the potential to harm other people. Training drivers from the start to consider the safety of others will help to build a driving culture of shared safety on our roads,” Dr Johnson said. The new driver competency will apply to people who attain an ACT learner driver licence on or after 29 August 2016. For other drivers who are required to pass a practical driving assessment (for example, some overseas drivers), the new competency will apply to those who book their assessment on or after 29 August 2016.

- Statement ends -

Section: Shane Rattenbury, MLA | Media Releases

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