You’ve seen motorists with L plates and P plates. Now a new R plate is being launched to let others know the driver is recovering from a traumatic experience.
The new plates have been created to warn motorists that a particular driver should be given extra space and consideration as they recover from an accident or a prolonged absence from the road.
The idea is to encourage more empathy on the road and to encourage motorists to think about the mental health of other drivers as they navigate traffic.
But despite seemingly good intentions, users on social media were quick to point out some glaring flaws the plan.
"As a disabled person, for the love of god do not this, I know where this is going," one user tweeted. "Will not end well," replied another, alluding to the potential abuse it opens up to the vulnerable drivers with another adding it "simply paints a target for road rage".
Others showed concern that unstable drivers were on the road in the first place, "If you're not fit to drive, don't get behind the wheel!," one user wrote on Facebook.
Internet users were also bewildered by the choice of the letter 'R' suggesting it linked to slurs against disabled people.
"Could they pick literally any other letter," one user said. "I think every comms team needs an edgy millennial on staff so they don't end up with a galaxy brain idea like "r plates for drivers who require more empathy," added another, while others referenced the unfortunate association with the 'R-word'.
The R plates are not officially sanctioned. They function more like the popular baby on-board stickers.
They are being promoted by Australian service and repair company mycar, formerly known as Kmart Tyre and Auto.
“We care for those with physical injuries from a road incident, but we rarely consider the mental toll road trauma can take,” a mycar spokesperson said.
“The R plate signifies to other road users that the driver may need some extra care, giving them time and space to recover. Recovering drivers can confidently return to the road knowing they are in a supportive space.”
The idea came after an insurance company survey last year found that 64 per cent of Australians aged 18 years or older and with a driver’s licence had been involved in at least one car accident.
Australian government department of transport data also found hospitalised crash injuries had increased by 16.2 per cent from 2012 to 2018 (the latest data available). A quarter of those injuries were life threatening.
University of Melbourne professor Jason Thompson who specialises in transportation safety and post-injury rehabilitation, said it was vital to recognise what drivers could be going through when they return from an accident.
“Returning to the road can be a scary and nerve-racking experience, so even just having those feelings recognised could help people to recover faster,” he said.
R plates are being provided free-of-charge through mycar.