The inaugural Australian Road Safety Awards have highlighted top programs around the country.
Gold Coast City Council won the Local Government Award and the Founder’s Award for Outstanding Achievement (Overall Award) for its SMART Motorcycle Training Program.
SMART is a road safety initiative that offers professional instruction for licensed motorcycle riders to help improve rider skills and knowledge of local and hinterland roads and reduce riders’ chances of crashing when faced with challenging road conditions.
Across Australia, motorcyclists are 20 times more likely to be killed in a fatal road crash than a car driver or passenger. In Queensland, fatalities from crashes involving motorcycles increased by 71.4% between 2003 and 2008 with 72 fatalities resulting from crashes involving motorcycles in 2008.
Gold Coast City Council started its Safe Motorcycle Advanced Rider Training (SMART) rider training courses in 2007, when there were 19 biker deaths in the hinterland region. While biker deaths have dropped by about a fifth around the nation over the past five years, deaths in the Gold Coast region have been more than halved with only four riders killed so far this year, one of which was due to a medical condition.
Earlier this year, Sgt Ian Birkbeck from the Gold Coast traffic branch acknowledged that since the SMART course began the fatalities in the hinterland have plummeted. ”I put it down to this program,” he says. “You can never have enough skills.”
Council senior road safety officer Karen Burton, who started the SMART course, said the $45 courses were subsidised 50 per cent by council but were open to all riders who use the region’s roads, not just ratepayers. She said they did not knock back any riders, with some coming from northern New South Wales and the Sunshine Coast - and even a request from a Perth rider to participate. ”People come from far and wide to ride our beautiful hinterland roads,” she said.
Rather than just teaching riding skills, the courses which are held every fortnight from March to September, focus on road craft and mental approach to riding. Recent course participants Delvene Read, 32, and James Turner, 30, from the Lockyer Valley, said they learnt a lot from the course even though they have been riding for 13 years. ”I’ve learnt proper cornering techniques and feel like I’m much more in control and comfortable,” Read says, while Turner says the course highlighted the bad habits he had picked up.