Are we serious about reducing the road toll? I mean really serious, as opposed to merely ‘hoping’ and ‘wishing’ but not completely committing to implementing measures that will reduce the road toll? Deaths on the road are increasing! It’s bad enough that drivers kill themselves. But they also kill other innocent people whose life is cut short through no fault of their own.
Young drivers are killing themselves and each other. So much so, the NSW government spent two million dollars on the Pinkie campaign that says, ‘Speeding. No one thinks big of you’. In a previous article, I explained why the Pinkie campaign is demoralising. In so doing, I promised to provide some of my ideas about how we can reduce deaths on the road.
Here are some suggestions that I believe are essential in the fight against this unnecessary carnage.
1) Reduce the driving age
When a problem becomes too difficult, society pushes the problem out by shifting the fence posts. Many have called for an increase to the age when learners can get behind the wheel. I am calling for a decrease in the age.
Start drivers at fourteen. This does not mean that they can go on the road. It means that they can go to special learning tracks, use their parent’s car, or hire a car, and be allowed to drive with a licensed driver beside them, or a certified trainer beside them. The central strategy behind this is to demystify the motor vehicle so that it is no longer a symbol that represents ‘coming of age’. We need to ensure that driving is no longer a big deal. At the same time, younger people are exposed to driving, the rules, the mechanics, and the physics of a car and how it handles.
2) Learn from the Scouts
A driver, from a young age, needs to earn badges. Learning to drive needs to be segmented into chunks of learning. Special attention needs to be paid to special segments, for which special badges are awarded on completion, and again upon testing. These segments include all the major parking skills. I am appalled at the number of drivers on the street who cannot reverse-park, or who are neither competent nor skilled at other simple manoeuvres. Start them young and teach them about the various aspects. There would be a special badge for car maintenance to include technical know-how about batteries, tyres, oil, and other basic technical and electrical awareness.
3) Use computer technology
Instead of spending millions on TV campaigns, let’s invest in some driving simulators. Pilots use sophisticated flying simulators. Why are there none for driving? Teens would need to pass a range of levels of driving simulation tests before they are tested on the road. The technology surrounding immersive virtual reality is so grand these days, that such simulations are right up the alley of drivers who are now growing up using excellent multimedia games.
4) Ditch the P-Plates
By all means, the L-Plates work well in that they play an important role. Unfortunately, I believe that the P-Plates create more problems than they solve. My sister, whose teenage son loves cars and is a good driver, has noticed how his mates are somewhat embarrassed by the P-Plates. This explains this problem well. The P-Plates are a constant reminder that the drivers are junior. The psychological issues surrounding this are deep and complex. In my opinion, if we remove the P-Plates from the equation, but still retain all the P-Plate provisions and provisos, then young drivers are not rocking-up to a party, signalling their inferiority. This level of inferiority (which is made worse by the Pinkie ad that demeans young men by teasing them about the size of their penis) is part of the showing-off factor that leads young drivers to put lives at risk. By the way, one young driver who this week went from red P-Plates to green ones, said that the computer-based test that he took was beyond a joke. He felt that upgrading to his green plates was a waste of time in terms of the test and what it was trying to achieve. The computer-based test leaves a lot to be desired, and does nothing to seriously train and test a driver’s competence.
5) Reduce the blood alcohol levels to zero
Yes, zero tolerance and zero everything for all drivers, no matter their age. Who in their right mind would still contemplate that any driver, who can kill innocent people on the road, should be allowed any level of alcohol in their blood? No doubt ample studies prove that adults who have 0.05% of alcohol in their blood can still function lucidly. No doubt. And this is not the point. It’s not that people cannot operate a death-trap missile at 0.05, but that the problem occurs when drivers start to drink sensibly, then slowly they drink just a bit too much. No two bodies are the same. Drinkers do not know when to stop with any sense of precision. They are not digital vessels with a dashboard. They simply will not know which next sip is the one that starts the decline. Once they decline, they will lose sensibilities. So by saying zero alcohol, we remove the burden and the responsibility from the drinker to make any decisions while drinking! No-one who can sit in a death-trap missile called a vehicle, ought to have touched alcohol for 24 hours. 0.05 confuses drivers and it gives them an open door through which they can enter. Shut that door. If anyone is going to protest about ‘social drinking’ and ‘culture’ and every other reason why drinking is ok, they would have missed the point. Such people could not be serious. I would think them to be weak-willed about the carnage, and ignorant about the real issues.
By the way, I do believe that the 0.05 reading does have a place in society: anyone in the street (walking or running or sitting or travelling on foot) who has a reading in excess of 0.05 ought to be locked up. If people want to drink and then walk into the street, they ought to be locked up. Clear enough? Alcohol makes the brain a floppy bit of jelly. Just go into town on a Friday night and tell me how else you wish to solve the endless violence and unruliness by drunken louts. Bring back the night fun where people can walk the streets and meet people and dine and play and laugh and sing and stay up late and make new friends. Instead, we have idiots and drunks who are abusive, destructive, and down right jelly-brained to spoil the fun. Lock them up. If they want to drink, they can drink at home. The public place is no place for idiots to be let loose. It is not safe for anyone to walk the streets, thanks to our silly social acceptance of a liquid that sozzles the brain and gives people an excuse for ghastly antisocial behaviour.
So, drivers must be at zero; not even an after-dinner mint that has any alcohol in it. As for pedestrians, nothing over 0.05!
6) Teach physics
No young driver ought to be granted a licence until the driver undergoes a thorough ‘advanced driver training program’ that includes driving extremes. Unless drivers understand the physics of the car, in relation to wet roads, oil, speed, braking distances, and other extremes, how will they know what kind of weapon they are in charge of? We train drivers to be safe. This is bad. We need to train them in what ‘unsafe’ feels like. They must experience, first-hand, what wet conditions really mean. Many gamblers go into a casino thinking that they might win. This is a grand level of stupidity. Every gambler who understands the laws of probability would soon change that mindset and enter a casino convinced that they might not win! Similarly, every driver is told to take care, yet the problems occur when the driver makes judgements and decisions about things of which they have no knowledge, no skill, and no experience.
Every young driver must know what 5 km/h translates into, when it comes to emergency braking. They die on the roads when they presume that they can take a corner or overtake a truck. While at high speed, they make decisions that they have never before made, about physical aspects that they had never before experienced. This is ludicrous. Teens die of bad decisions. Let us give them a driving track on which they can make those decisions so that they will know how to calculate their decisions at high speed. No driver should be given a licence until they pass high-grade serious physical engagement with vehicles.
7) Upgrade the driving test
I recall my driving instructor: a lazy person who would charge me for one hour’s tuition, yet drive most of the way, only allowing me to drive for approximately ten minutes. What a joke. Then the driving test was another pathetic exercise. Both the trainer and the examiner were below-average dills who might still be out there neglecting their duties. If we really want people to drive safely, we should not allow unsafe drivers on the roads in the first place. We need to overhaul the entire training and testing procedures. All driving instructors must be able to pass stringent high-level driving tests, the kind that the elite drivers at the White House or Buckingham Palace would have had to pass. Then the young people would have to pass similar stringent examinations, both written and practical.
You see, there is no point in telling people to ‘do’ anything. Telling does not work. What’s the point of asking someone not to drink petrol? They have to make that decision for themselves. Why don’t more young people drink petrol? Think about that. No-one tells them not to. They know not to. They have decided not to! Telling someone to slow down, is useless. Telling someone that speeding is stupid, is equally useless. Drivers must arrive at that conclusion for themselves.
When teens arrive at their own conclusion, they will be obedient to themselves. They will know their limits. They will understand by ‘understanding’, instead of merely reading signs and rules that mean nothing to them. Therefore, stop telling and pleading and insulting and humiliating young drivers. Teach them until they completely understand how a vehicle works, and how they can take better control of it.
8) Other ideas
I have a very long list of other suggestions, but these will suffice for now. There is so much more that we can do, and need to do, but our democratic system is a slow bureaucratic one. Sad indeed.
Parts of busy Sydney are filled with goons and idiots of every description. The night life includes louts and drunks causing havoc. Instead of using police resources to lock-up the unruly trouble-makers and parasites, we see undercover police in unmarked cars harassing the wrong people just so that they can fill their night. I took this photo one busy night. The taxi driver was pulled over for a miniscule driving offence that ought not to have mattered in terms of priority. His misdemeanour pales next to the rough hot-heads who go about terrorising the town, its shopkeepers, and law abiding citizens. In the same vein, there is a police team that hides down the road from my home, and they wait for a driver to so much as touch the un-raised round-about so as to book them. How pathetic. Oh dear, we have a lot of work to do before we can call ourselves civilised.
Since writing this article, it has come to my attention that a Victorian company has already produced a driving simulator. Read about it here.
This article was written by Jonar Nader, author of ‘How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People’. Jonar is a consultant whose website is www.LoseFriends.com
Incidentally, a week after posting this article, the police force was out in force, to arrest drunken behaviour. It was a good show, but it would have been better to have delayed the media exposure until after the blitz. In any case, you cannot reason with drunks. The issue is not one of locking-up drunks, but of treating the whole problem of excessive drinking, and venues that serve alcohol when they shouldn’t.