There are new calls to make first-aid training mandatory for all learner drivers to help curb the surging road toll across Australia.
Natalie Watson-Brown, a young driver expert and research fellow at Queensland University of Technology told Yahoo News that young drivers are "highly overrepresented in crashes" and that more needs to be done to help save Aussie lives.
St John Ambulance Victoria currently has a 30-minute e-learning course available to help learner drivers with basic first-aid, but the service would like to see it be made mandatory and is calling for the government to step in.
The ambulance service proposes a reduction in mandatory driving hours if a first-aid course is carried out.
"For us, this is about people learning first aid so they can be part of the community's response to high levels of injury and in this case, the road toll," chief executive Gordon Botwright told 3AW Melbourne Radio.
First few minutes after accident are critical
The first 3 to 5 minutes are critical for life-preserving actions after a traffic accident. It takes just four minutes to die from a blocked airway — the single cause of an estimated 85 per cent of pre-hospital traffic deaths. Mr Botwright said simple actions around first aid can help save a life.
"The simple act of lifting a person's chin, putting pressure down on bleeding, or starting CPR if they are unconscious and not breathing, that is minutes of training," he explained.
Calls to reduce surging road tolls
The national road toll for the year to March 2023 reached 1,204, which was 67 more deaths than the 12 months before, according to independent monitoring by the Australian Automobile Association (AAA), as reported by the ABC. Each year in Victoria, around 250 people are killed, and a further 8,000 are seriously injured by road accidents.
Ms Watson-Brown agreed young drivers should be equipped with more knowledge that could help reduce these numbers.
"16 to 24-year-olds in Australia hold about 13 per cent of licences, but they're involved in more than 30 per cent of serious injuries. So that's almost one-third of crashes," she told Yahoo.
"If you've got young people there giving first aid, that's going to give a good chance to someone to survive their injuries and possibly prevent a fatality," she added.
ACT backs first-aid incentive with push for others to follow
Ms Watson-Brown agreed a government incentive would go a long way in helping keep Aussie drivers safe. She said all Australians should learn some level of first aid. Mr Botwright said less than 30 per cent of the population knows first aid. "The numbers are pretty low, unfortunately," he said.
The ACT was the first territory in Australia to offer free training for learner drivers on the back of a recommendation from Senior Australian of the Year Val Dempsey last year. Minister for Transport Chris Steel said the ACT Government will offer a five-hour discount to learner drivers who complete the course from their 100-hour requirement of supervised driving.
While the course, which officially launched in November 2022, is available to drivers in all states and territories, it's not yet recognised as part of a learner driver's required training.
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