February 22, 2007 | Ken Reed

How Can We Reduce Traffic Related Deaths Among Young Drivers?

Lee Dawson, TapRooT® Expert and HSE Manager at M&ISE in Milton, Australia offers an opportunity for our readers to help answer this question!

From Lee:

About two years ago, a police sergeant friend of mine attended a BBQ at my place. Since I’m a safety guy, the discussion eventually led to the amount of youth carnage on our roads.

He asked if it would be possible to get a base understanding of why so many 17 to 25 year old kids were being killed on our roads, and why when all the efforts everyone was putting in, it always failed to reduce the toll? And could we as parents of a heavily effected community do something about it?

To cut a very long story short, we researched the trends and clearly identified some major contributing factors that everyone seemed to have overlooked in combination with each other, I guess it’s all the TapRooT® training kicking in.

During the very early stages of our research, it showed us that a section of the brain that is required to accept cause, effect and consequence will not physically develop until over the age of 25. It also showed us the hormone release in teenagers physically actually attacked this growth part of the brain until we came out of puberty.

It further proves that the youths brain can be dramatically effected by cognitive tunneling, and cognitive object focusing. This dramatically increases the risk when driving, interesting but basic stuff so far. Note: The armed forces are spending some time on these issues, in particular the effects on concentration levels with (HUD) heads up display in fighter jets. (This is well worth considering as a TapRooT® causal factor.)

Using a mobile phone is another example. The brain accepts about 1850 bits of information at any one time. It needs to break that information into four main categories, (DIPI) Dangerous, Important, Pleasurable, and Interesting, for us to respond to any given situation (more possible TapRooT® causal factors).

The average adult brain, over 25s, converts the 1850 bits into an average of seven main units of information, then uses this to scan the four DIPI categories. The average youth’s brain, (under age 25) with the same inputs, can only convert this into an average of four units of information.

These basic units of information are used to scan the subconscious for memory related responses to situations and act accordingly, generally based on experience or in other words cognitive memory. This process helps us to survive. When we fight or flight, or when we stay and play are very good examples of this.

Now remembering that the youth’s brain has not yet developed the capacity to understand the concept of risk related cause, effect and consequence, there can be no, or at the very best only a basic, cognitive memory of danger. Saying all this, the kid’s four units of information available to the brain does not consider danger as a part of the equation. Take the D out of DIPI, therefore , and it’s now down to three units of information available to the brain. They are in a lot of trouble when they get behind the wheel!

Throw in a distraction, which has been identified as the major contributing factor to accidents on our roads, and you have a potential disaster occurring every time they drive, hence the reason for our road toll.

We took this information, with a great deal of other research, and developed a youth driver training program for our local high school. It’s simply based on cognitive developments and mentoring with the focus on driving.

It does not teach a kid how to get a license and it does not teach defensive driving. It shys away from trauma related images, and deals specifically with placing risk awareness and cognitive learnings about cause and effect into their minds through simple mechanical compliance learnings.

Over the last year, the local community high school completed the first trials for us with outstanding success, to the point where we had kids saying comments like “you are teaching me how to die on the road, not how to drive” to their driver’s instructors.

We have now generated huge community interest, with a que of high schools asking for the program, and a major Australian University has come on board to assist in further research and development. The local government has put the process before parliament for Federal support, and some major Australian companies are showing an interest in sponsoring the program.

Further community interest in remote mining towns and various mining companies have asked if we could develop the same process for apprentices and general employees with a focus on adult learning due to the related mining industry road incidents etc.

We have already developed multimedia teaching modules and have the University working on developing the program to allow delivery through mobile devices, and we have had some initial inquiries from America. This is extremely exciting for us and we can’t wait to develop this avenue further.

To date we have been unable to identify any similar process world wide and are now calling for expressions of interest from any group that may be interested in supporting us. This is something that should be shared and I see the perfect platform to share via safety professionals around the world.

We have already started to save lives and reduce the road trauma. We call the program B.R.A.K.E, Behavior, Risk, Attitude, Knowledge, and Education, and have formed a charitable foundation under that name. We hope to eventually give this program free to all schools. Any one interested in coming on board should e-mail me and I will gladly send more info.


Thanks for the great information, Lee!

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