Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Road Safety - Its everyones responsibility

I found a link to this website Cllr Damien Blake from Damien Mulley's blog. I missed the original "Stop this Carnage Week" but felt the need to air my views. This is also an area for which I believe that lots can be done and not just from the government side. Everyone these days seems to be saying that its all drink driving and speed that kills. Something that I was told on my first driving lesson was, and still is, very relevant and I think about it most times I drive.

That is: "Speed doesn't kill - stupidity kills"

If you think about it it makes lots of sense. The clamp down on drink driving is very welcome, don't get me wrong, as is the speeding but often judgment is clouded as to the actual offence. I had a prime example of this last night. As I was heading for the Passage-Cobh ferry a car in front suddenly braked, then started again and then braked and took an immediate right turn - and not an indicator in sight. Luckily I had enough space as to avoid any issue but if something had happened it would have been marked down as a speed issue whereas the person in front just didn't drive properly...and more and more people seem to not use indicators - almost like they have an allergic reaction to them.

I'm not saying I'm a perfect driver by any means but I do believe that if you show respect to others then surely things will improve. I also think that young drivers get a raw deal. While there are far too many deaths of young people lots still drive safely. Probably the real reason for so many young fatalities is that they feel they have nothing to protect - a sort of "I'm young and will enjoy life" attitude. I now have a wife and a lovely life and always want to ensure that I get home to enjoy it. Maybe they don't have anyone or anything to be responsible for and therefore take more risks - its a fact of life that you take more risks when you are young. I take care driving but I cant ensure that some idiot may cause me not to come home some day. I think we need to get down to the bottom of the real reason for deaths. and not just catagorise into speed and drink.

For example, assume the following:
Your driving along and the car in front is driving right on the white line at 70km/ph in a 100km zone.
They are not moving in to let you pass and seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that anything is behind them.
You move to overtake at an overtaking area after being behind them for miles and you deem it to be safe and stay at 100km/ph.
From no-where a car on the other side of the road hits you.

What is the cause? Probably it would be marked down as speeding but if you are doing 100km how could it be? Was the car in front of you driving safely? For me, no. Driving well under the speed limit is also asking for trouble especially if you do not offer a chance to overtake. People should be taught that if there is a hard shoulder they should use it to let others overtake if they are not driving at an acceptable speed (just not on a motorway of course). For me in a 100km zone anything less than 80km could be considered dangerous unless the vehicle is not able to proceed at said speeds (i.e tractors, scooters, loaded-trucks, etc..)

I feel that driver education is severely lacking in this country. Take those people who got licenses back in the 70's (?) without ever sitting a test due to a backlog. How many are safe on the roads now? How many people are driving on our roads without ever sitting a test? I'm not saying that they are all bad drivers but we must ensure that everyone on our roads is at a certain level and that we are all aware of the proper way to drive.

Off course not everything is driver related. Others must take responsibility. Cyclists and motorcyclists, I feel, should be mandated to wear bright clothing at all times. Pedestrians should be mandated the same during certain times of day/night (for example, once the clocks change in October high visibility bands should be worn between 5pm and 8am until the clocks change again in March once you are not in a lit up area). Also pedestrians should be made take more responsbility. Often you can be driving along, heading through a green traffic light and someone will walk in front of you. If you kill them everyone thinks its speeding and you are made feel its your fault.
Are rules of the road taught in schools anymore? I think parents leave far too much responsibility on teachers for this. I walked to Primary school when I was young and we were taught good road manners and the rules of the road. With kids now nearly always driven to school on the days they do walk mostly they dont have an idea...

Overall I think that we all should do more and also take responsibility for our actions. Finally I would just like to add some of my ideas to Cllr Blake's suggestions on things he would like to see:

- Driver re-education. We have introduced over the last number of years roads with slow/fast lanes, dual-carriageways and motorways but never educated those for whom these were not around when they first passed their test. Some people do not know how to operate on these roads. I also feel that workshops should be held and all drivers must attend every 4 years on the anniversary of their test (or as close as possible) to go over good road etiquette and other items introduced into our network.

- Driver education - teaching someone to drive is one thing, but teaching them to be good driver is another. I had to take a car at 50km/ph around a few roads, with 2 roundabouts, a few left and right turns, parallel park and a corner turn. That's a load of rubbish. That means I can drive safely in a 50km/ph and then I can go 120km/ph on a motorway with no trouble?? We need to teach people properly. Add into the curriculum night driving, motor-way or dual-carriageway driving, town driving, country driving as well as how to deal with cyclists, pedestrians, roundabouts, traffic lights and also road etiquette (when to let people past, the necessity of using indicators and lights as well as using hazards).

- I agree with the the ban comments. However, I think we need to be careful on the punishments. Someone caught doing 140km in a 80km zone clearly is a danger but what about 55km in a 50km zone? I think that for certain issues we need to have mandatory punishments with penalties and points and no court appearance. However the local councils need to whipped into shape to ensure roads are properly marked with the correct speed limits and also enough warning of the imminent reduction in speeds.

- All drivers on our roads should be made abide by our road rules. I think that with the open European Market and the fact that we can all hop in our cars and head anywhere in Europe we all should be driving the same...and all abide by the rules. If I am caught speeding in Spain then I should be reported to the Irish Gardai and penalized - end of story. If I am from a country outside of the EU and caught speeding in Ireland then I should have the same penalty as an Irish person. Maybe the EU should get together and formulate a standard driving test applicable across all its member states and agreed by all. Any countries then wanting to join would need to implement the scheme within 2 years of joining and also have all drivers in their country resit the test.

- We need more advertisements on TV for driving. I remember growing up and the ad for roundabouts was how I learned to negotiate them. If we put eduacational ads it might just get 5% of people to drive/cycle/walk better and that could reduce deaths.

- Learning to drive needs to stop being about making money and more about driving. In Ireland its nothing other than a money making scheme at the moment. Also, how often are Driving Instructors tested to ensure that they are still capable of teaching?

Please review these links as some of the items listed do not make pleasant reading:
Road Deaths.ie
Map Of Road Deaths
Road Safety Blog

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