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Are Canberrans bad drivers?

Are Canberrans really bad drivers?... It's a question that got locals in a frenzy online last week.

Are Canberrans really bad drivers?... It's a question that got locals in a frenzy online last week. Photo: Jay Cronan

We have the nation's lowest rate of road fatalities, but it's a common view that Canberrans are impatient behind the wheel. Is it an accurate view, or are we too hard on ourselves?

Accident data released by insurer AAMI last week cited impatience and a failure to indicate as reasons Canberra drivers had a higher percentage of nose-to-tail crashes and crashes into stationary objects.

The report and AAMI observation that "drivers in Canberra are simply more impatient than drivers in other states" sparked dozens of web comments, many suggesting ACT drivers were spoilt by good roads and felt too entitled behind the wheel.

Veteran driving instructor Garry Micallef agreed, saying Canberra drivers were worse than some other Australian cities, with ingrained expectations and a well-designed road network contributing factors.

“Canberrans seem to be a little impatient, partly because Canberra has grown quite quickly,” Mr Micallef said.

“Twenty years ago you could get to Hawker from Civic in 15-18 minutes, now it might take you half an hour, 45 minutes if it's a bad day, and it seems to be taking a little bit more time for people to adjust.”

Mr Micallef has been teaching the next generation of drivers for 27 years, and said merging and give-way signs were a particular problem.

“I've seen people go through a give-way because they just don't notice, because the roads are [in most parts] so well set out,” he said.

“They haven't learnt to flow that well, they're a little bit self-centred when they're trying to merge lanes.”

Mr Micallef has felt the brunt of some of the city's inattentive drivers, and six months ago was in a serious crash when a P-plater failed to give way, leaving his student with a broken collar bone and broken arm and ribs.

“We're more dangerous,” he said.

While improvement is always possible, the stats give residents and government no cause for alarm.

Last year's fatality figure of seven was the territory's second lowest annual road toll since 1959, and came just two years after recording its lowest toll.

An Australian Automobile Association report calculated the ACT's road death rate for the year to September 2013 as 2.62 per 100,000 population, less than half the national average and easily the lowest of any jurisdiction.

The ACT government's latest official road crashes report said since 1991 the territory has had the lowest rates of persons hospitalised per population and per vehicle kilometres of travel, and lowest costs of serious casualty crashes on the same population and distance travelled measures.

Meaningful comparisons with the ACT's overall traffic crash figures – there were 8312 on-road crashes in 2012 – are difficult, as other jurisdictions do not require all traffic accidents to be reported, leaving recorded rates disproportionately lower.

NRMA–ACT Road Safety Trust chairman Don Aitkin has long said the fatality rates give a misleading impression of Canberrans' driving skills, with no account taken of ACT residents who die on other – particularly NSW – roads.

“We have commissioned a study on that in the past, and by and large about as many Canberra residents died interstate as died on ACT roads,” Mr Aitkin said.

“Our cars are safer, roads are safer, tyres are safer [than in the past], and the reason we have lower deaths in the ACT is that we don't have high-speed roads and b-doubles.”

The latest commissioned study, released by ARRB Group last year, found fatal crashes involving ACT controllers were three to five times more likely to occur in NSW than in the ACT, on the basis of vehicle kilometres travelled in the 2006 to 2010 period.

Mr Micallef said the melting pot that is Canberra also created potential problems.

“One issue we do have is that we have a lot of people here form many other places, be it from interstate or overseas – that's where problems can come,” he said.

“You get one person who is going by slightly different rules … different speeds, different sized gaps.”

The government does include some road rules brochure with registration renewal notices.

Are we impatient drivers? Leave a comment.

89 comments

  • Ha ha, well I could tell you about my ride into work today...

    Commenter
    DK26
    Date and time
    February 10, 2014, 2:24PM
    • Oooo go on please tell us how you nearly caused 100 crashes this morning because you think your bike is as fast a car... I would love to hear about it

      Commenter
      Get off the road
      Date and time
      February 10, 2014, 4:01PM
    • I must agree with an earlier comment that, in general terms, Australians are simply lousy drivers. Speak to any European who is holidaying here and when you mention driving they express horror and disbelief at the utter lack of driving comprehension or skill shown by the locals.
      To add to that, I can testify that ACT drivers are collectively the worst of the lot, by a long margin too. I am constantly surprised that a whole lot more people don't die on ACT roads, and when I'm travelling in NSW I am horrified by the antics of cars being driven with ACT plates, so many have no idea and zero respect for the lives of other road users. The ability to operate a vehicle from A to B is not the same thing as being able to demonstrate driving skills in a co-operative environment.
      We don't need speed cameras, we need traffic police in unmarked cars, and lots of them. Don't worry about the cost, because the fines handed out will more than cover that expense. On it's own, mobile phone usage whilst driving could pretty much eliminate the need for Canberrans to pay rates, if only it was enforced.

      Commenter
      Truthy
      Date and time
      February 11, 2014, 10:07AM
  • Canberra drivers are racing car drivers. The relative few cars on all those long dual carriageways and giant roundabouts encourages speeding.
    Sydney drivers are aggressive but polite (I found in my experience) They will let you in if you clearly show you need to change lanes or make a turn.
    Melbourne drivers are just rude road hogs with no manners. They deliberately block you if you show you want to change lanes or make turn.

    Commenter
    woppadingo
    Date and time
    February 10, 2014, 2:39PM
    • Due to the ACT being apopulation of blow ins from other states and territories I find we encounter the bad driving of all different areas in one.

      Commenter
      d d
      Date and time
      February 10, 2014, 3:22PM
    • + 1

      Commenter
      Good Luck
      Date and time
      February 10, 2014, 4:00PM
    • A low percentage of Canberra drivers got their licence in Canberra, they are mainly blow-ins from other states. They drive on the great roads in Canberra and think they are in motoring heaven with an "I'll show them" attitude. Having said that, I moved from Canberra to the South Coast and am amazed everyday with the ineptitude of the local drivers to negotiate roundabouts, use their indicatrs or even stop at stop signs. I think I have resigned myself to the obvious fact that ALL Australian drivers are idiots.

      Commenter
      Acepanno
      Date and time
      February 10, 2014, 4:58PM
    • Racing drivers? Seriously, you either live in a fantasy land or you've never actually driven in Canberra. The overwhelming majority of 'drivers' here take a full kilometre from a standing start to dawdle up to a speed 10-20kph below the posted speed limit and proceed to creep along like valium users having their first driving lesson, completely beteft of any sense of situational awareness and utterly indifferent to how their ineptitude affects those who actually want to get somwhere, as opposed to puttering from red light to red light. Racing drivers, indeed.

      Commenter
      Mad Uncle Bruno
      Date and time
      February 11, 2014, 8:50AM
  • Driving Canberra roads is definitely a more mindless experience then in other places. There is too much over-regulation and not enough common sense applied to speed limits and other rules (that are too blanketly applied) here. If you go drive in Sydney you realise how ridiculous some of our speed limits / road rules are - such as having school zone limits all school day here instead of the 1.5 hours at the start and end of school as is in NSW.

    Commenter
    snaddle
    Date and time
    February 10, 2014, 2:54PM
    • Its ironic considering Canberra has the highest educated worksforce per head of population and the worst drivers - living proof intelligence doesnt equal common sense....

      2 gripes about canberra drivers :

      (1) You cant merge. Learn. My 8 year old has more of an idea of traffic flow.

      (2) Dont slow down when you see a car on the side of the road. I watched a whole stream of traffic aslow down to 60kmh in a 100 zone once as a car with an organe light was parked on the side of the road. No accident, no lane blockage. Its like a bunch of cows at a new gate. Mooooooooooooooo

      *sigh*

      And you wonder why canberra has a bad name?

      Come on ...wakey wakey....

      Commenter
      Wombat
      Date and time
      February 10, 2014, 4:13PM

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