||Professor Jack McLean Retirement
In March this year, Professor Jack McLean retired from the Centre, after a distinguished career in road safety research stretching back over 40 years. Jack has since accepted the prestigious position of Emeritus Professor with the University.
Here Jack reflects on some of the changes in road safety since he started working in the profession.
The road safety situation in South Australia has changed greatly since the Road Accident Research Unit was established at the University of Adelaide in October 1973. In the following year the annual numbers of road accident fatalities and casualties peaked in South Australia at 382 and 12,725 respectively. In 2012 it was 94 and 7,042 respectively.
Vehicle-type specific driving licence categories were introduced in 1973. Claimed prior experience in operating a given class of vehicle within the previous two years was accepted as justification for issuing a licence for that vehicle type.
The prima facie open road speed limit of 60 mph (the onus was on the driver to prove that a faster speed was not hazardous) was replaced by an actual 60 mph speed limit in 1974 (metricated to 110 km/h). However, following the Second World War there had been considerable reconstruction of many existing rural roads in South Australia. The alignment of these new roads was designed to be safe at a speed of 50 mph (80 km/h). The choice of a 110 km/h limit continues to legally permit travel at speeds substantially above the safe design speed on many rural roads.
It was customary to emphasise the role of the road user rather than other approaches in ensuring safety on the road. One of the most significant advances in traffic safety was the change from almost total reliance on drivers complying with the Give Way to the Right priority rule in traffic, which placed the onus on driver behaviour, to a major/minor road system. First recommended in the report on the Adelaide In-Depth Accident Study in 1966, it was adopted in Victoria in 1974 and in South Australia in 1980.
The Australian Design Rules for Motor Vehicle Safety (ADRs), introduced in 1969, required lap and sash seat belts for all seated positions in new cars, thereby increasing the effectiveness of compulsory seat belt wearing (1971). The ADRs continue to play an essential role but the vehicle safety ratings provided by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program have more influence on improvements in many aspects of vehicle safety design.
Today, the safe system approach to road safety, aided by factors such as a clearer understanding of the role of travelling speed in crash involvement, provided by research at CASR, promises to lead to even greater advances in safety than those of the past 40 years.
For more information about the role Jack played in road safety click here