Why we can’t stop getting lost in national parks
A recent article from Great Walks
Posted on 28.07.2020
This recent article from Great Walks looks at new research from Dr Edmund Goh at the Edith Cowan University on ‘Why we can’t stop getting lost in national parks’
As national parks and bushwalking tracks across Australia spring back to life post-pandemic, new research from Edith Cowan University has revealed the risky behaviour of visitors is placing their safety in danger.
Lead author, Dr Edmund Goh, surveyed visitors at the NSW Blue Mountains National Park and found one of the leading causes of people straying from designated tracks was witnessing others doing it.
Dr Goh, from ECU’s School of Business and Law, believes this ‘copycat’ mentality gave people a false sense of security.
“We were surprised by how much people are influenced by the behaviours of others, regardless of if they believed walking off track was unsafe or detrimental to the environment,” Dr Goh said.
“Wandering off designated walking and biking trails has many risks such as injury, becoming lost, falling and snakebites, not to mention the impact on native wildlife and flora.
“Visitors getting lost or injured takes significant resources away from emergency services and parks, which are better spent ensuring everyone can enjoy the outdoors.”
In Australia, 11 people have died in national parks since 2012.
Dr Goh said the research demonstrates how human behaviour is heavily influenced by peers.
“It seems the age-old parenting analogy to not to follow our friends jumping off a cliff has fallen on deaf ears. The lure of venturing off trail is just too great,” Dr Goh said.
Dr Goh said there were a number of ways national parks could help reduce visitors straying from paths, including:
- Increasing signage and information about trails and the dangers
- Capping park capacity at peak times to avoid crowding
- Building safe infrastructure to provide views of potentially dangerous spots
- Increasing bathroom facilities.
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