Are you a good driver? You may be hopeless and tend to wander but would you tell anyone? While none of us think we need any driving tuition how long is it since you read your state’s Road Users Handbook? When you got your licence?
Take a drive and it becomes apparent that whatever the road rules and road conditions there are hundreds of interpretations. Canberra is blessed with many roundabouts and while the rule is fairly simple – the roundabout sign means Slow Down, prepare to Give Way and if necessary stop to avoid a collision – in the capital this is often interpreted as quick, if I make a break for it I will beat that car by one second.
The road carnage is so sickening it is a wonder anybody wants to travel on our roads. Day after day we see death and serious injury caused by accidents, many of them involving heavy vehicles. In 2009 459 people died on NSW roads, up from 374 in 2008. That is 85 more people but even one road death is too many. Australiawide it was more than 1500.
There are so many possible causes: speed, fatigue, alcohol and drugs, driver error, large vehicles, dangerous goods, the condition of the road, inattention, distractions, bad habits, texting, DVDs, GPS, not wearing a seatbelt. Accidents happen at night, in daylight, in the wet and the dry and on every type of road from dual carriageways to single lane roads.
As drivers we must shoulder the responsibility of operating our vehicle safely. As the parent of a newly-licensed driver I am acutely aware of how are young drivers are taught and how they behave on the roads.
Some drivers just don’t get it. A recent conversation revolved around how many points people had lost on their driver’s licence. You have 12 and in NSW if you are caught exceeding the speed limit by not more than 10km/h you can lose one point and be fined $84. Exceed the speed limit by more than 45km/h and the penalty is six points and a fine of $1744.
The easiest way to keep your points is stick to the speed limit but this simple idea was greeted with incredulity. One driver declared he owned a powerful and strong car so no matter what speed he travelled at he would be safe! But what about everybody else on the road?
The annual cost of road crashes is $18 billion but perhaps we all need to stop and think what the cost would be to our family if one member died or was seriously injured in an accident. While lost wages, trauma and treatment may be quantifiable, emotionally the cost is incalculable.
None of us want to be faced with this type of arithmetic.