Norway Probing If Driver
Knowledge Behind Fatality Rise
14 OCT - A recent rise in the number of road fatalities in Norway has authorities looking into the reasons behind it.
Experts are wondering if the problem is not hidden in the driving education and especially the follow-up of drivers knowledge for years after.
“Every driver has learned what is right and wrong in traffic. But if we do not see the rules as "useful", we are quick to find our own solutions. You often start by slightly adjusting what you learned at driving school and take several shortcuts”, says Dagfinn Moe, traffic behavior researcher at Sintef. “When you get into a routine where you use a car every day, you tend to find your own driving style. Then one must hope that that style does not deviate too much from what is safe”, he says.
NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) recently tested three random drivers in different age groups to see if they would pass a driving test after several years in traffic. Neither the youngest nor the oldest driver was able to pass. Pål (59) followed what he thought was his "flow" in traffic. When the speed limits were low, he got carried away and ended up over the limit. But even Thea (23), who had only got her licence three years ago, had already developed several wrong habits. “We know that habits are formed through doing things you find useful. It makes you slide into a driving pattern that you think works by itself. Then you may have problems interacting with others in traffic, and there will be a greater risk”, adds Moe.
For several years, Norway has been the country with the fewest traffic deaths in relation to the number of residents. “We have perhaps the best traffic education in the world. It is a very good starting point, but knowledge must also remain the same”, says transport minister Jon-Ivar Nygård. Deaths in traffic have been steadily decreasing for many years, but this year the situation has reversed. By the end of August this year, 80 people had died in traffic in Norway. As many as in the whole of 2021. “It is too early to say what is the cause of the increase, but what we do know is that it often has to do with driver error. It should also be said that last year's figures were exceptionally low due to the pandemic”, says Nygård. Several measures have been put in place to get closer to the Vision Zero. Speed limits have been lowered on several stretches and information campaigns have been launched. But changes in driving training or mandatory follow-up of driving skills are not considered. “We all have a great personal responsibility to seek new knowledge if we know we are too insecure to be drivers, but we have no plans to propose a mandatory follow-up”, Nygård says.
But the Police think it is much more about attitude than about knowledge. Knut Smedsrud, ROADPOL Council member and head of the Norwegian Road Police does not believe lack of knowledge of traffic rules is the main reason for fatal collisions. “Knowledge is there. Do not drive under the influence of drugs, do not use mobile phones, follow the speed limits... Is there a road user not to know these things? No, they know them. It’s just that some of them choose to disregard them", Smedsrud says. According to Smedsrud, excessive speed is the main reason behind 35% of fatal collisions. “We know that less than 70 per cent of motorists follow the speed limits. So this is more about attitude than knowledge”, Smedsrud concludes.