Thursday 5 May 2011

Good Driving

Surprising as it may seem, learning to drive is not about passing your test. It's actually about learning to control a huge, heavy lump of metal in such a way that it does not endanger you or any other road user. There is no leeway in this. Any loss of control is likely to have serious, potentially fatal, consequences and therefore anything we can do to prevent it, we must do.

The driving test sets a minimum level of driving competency which must be attained before the driver is let loose on the roads on their own and, as such, it is a good thing. However, with the increase in vehicle capability, the amount of traffic on the roads, the general urgency of life and societal attitudes towards courtesy and reasonable conduct, the minimum level is simply no longer enough. Nowadays it is wrong to assume that a test pass means a safe driver. Unfortunately it is possible for a poor driver to have an uneventful, lucky test and to pass when in reality they should not have. They are then free to motor on for the next 50 years without any further examination of their driving ability. Do we really believe that that is acceptable? Surely there has to be a better way of training and testing drivers.

Nobody likes being told that their driving is not good - that's human nature. Now that I am older, I know that I should not have passed my test first time. I was lucky and had a very lenient examiner. As a result I was not a good driver but I was lucky and eventually trained in the police to a much higher standard. Nevertheless I had a high speed accident after I left the police in which I could have been seriously injured. Fortunately I wasn't and mine was the only vehicle involved. The accident was caused by me simply being too blase about driving and not taking enough care. It changed my view of driving because I know how lucky I was.

Although I can tell people the tale, I cannot convey the effect and impact that the accident had on the view of my own driving. Therein lies the problem. We learn through experience and despite our best efforts, experience will always be the best teacher. So should we give up teaching best practice and expect everyone to have a view changing accident? No, we need to change attitudes towards driving right across the industry and this is not the responsibility of solely one group of people. It requires politicians, the police, the DSA, insurance companies, examiners, instructors, learners and all road users to work together to improve the standard of driving right across the board. All road users have to accept that they have a responsibility towards all other road users. Anything less than this and the ultimate goal of safe roads will elude us completely.

Over the next couple of weeks I will post some of my ideas as to the weaknesses in the current system and how it might be changed to make it better. I have no doubt that these ideas will have their sceptics but if one suggestion made changes one person's view and makes them a safer driver, then it will be worth it.

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