WITH THE QUEENSLAND Road Toll for 2007 already a record at more than 200 deaths, groundbreaking research into the driving behaviour of 102 Uniting Church Ministers has reported they were involved in 32 crashes in the past two years.
The research conducted by the Centre of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) identified four problem driving behaviours for ministers including deliberate speeding, unintentional speeding, lack of concentration, and driving while tired.
QUT Postdoctoral Research Fellow Sharon Newman said inattentive driving behaviours included driving while thinking about how to get to the destination, driving while thinking about work-related problems, and driving while thinking about work tasks.
“Drivers most frequently report engaging in behaviours that result in a lack of concentration,” she said.
Ministers who had reported one of the problem driving behaviours were more likely to report occasions when they had lost demerit points, and one-third of the ministers surveyed had lost demerit points during the past two years.
Ministers who drove while tired were also more likely to be involved in a rear end crash.
The research also found a significant relationship between the safety climate of a congregation and its minister’s driving behaviours.
A minister who perceived that his or her congregation valued safety was less likely to engage in either intentional or unintentional speeding.
The researchers concluded that interventions aimed at improving the safety climate within the congregations could reduce both intentional and unintentional speeding.
Synod Workplace Health and Safety Advisor Ms Charlotte Tyrrell said driving behaviour of ministers and other church employees was both a safety and financial concern for the church.
Ms Tyrrell and the QUT research team are undertaking a process of consultation with presbyteries to develop proactive strategies and to foster a safety culture among ministers and church leaders.
“Ministers can have tight deadlines when driving between Sunday morning services in different locations and congregation members need to be aware that if ministers are late because they are choosing to drive safely that should be affirmed,” Ms Tyrrell said.
“Ministers generally do not consider driving between appointments as work.”
Ms Newman said road crashes have become the most common form of work-related injury, death, and absence from work in Australia.
“Road safety should be an important concern for all organisations where employees are engaged in work-related driving.”
A similar study was also conducted with a sample of over 600 Blue Care staff across the South-Easter corner of the state.
Blue Care has more than 1 400 fleet vehicles, which travel more than 2 000 000 kilometres every year – the equivalent of driving around Australia’s 25 760 kilometre coastline approximately 77 times.
The research results indicated that improving the safety climate of Blue Care could reduce excessive and unintentional driving speeds, improve concentration and reduce tiredness while driving.
The three-year study aims to develop a model of the factors influencing the safety of drivers in nonprofit organisations and to design and implement fleet safety procedures.
“It is expected that the results of the study will reduce the economic and social impact of work-related driving crashes and improve the safety of employed and volunteer drivers within the Uniting Church,” Ms Newnam said.