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australian road users (and our fraudulent government)

By riotdave - 2 December 2008 47

g’day rioters!

perhaps some of you heard of this horrific story in The Age from a little while back that re-emerged today as it appeared in court this morning:

now, don’t get me wrong, i have nothing but sympathy for all parties involved in this tragedy; this is not my beef. instead this story and the media response has sparked my frustration again with our shameful government(s) and their pathetic road policies. below lies a somewhat drawn-out story but i felt compelled to register and post it. you know where the little red “X” is if you get bored 🙂

i wish you to consider how we equip our new drivers with car-handling skills. some of you may be aware of “road ready” (http://www.roadready.act.gov.au) a now nation-wide program that is supposed to help make L-platers safe drivers. now while this is certainly a step in the right direction, it is seen as more of a pain in the backside by l-plate-seekers and literally, the ONLY thing i could remember from when i took the course myself a few years back was the unbelievably cute blondie that shared my boredom/pain. so thats all well and good then – we ask a bunch of easily forgotten questions to people that don’t really care to know, and then we send them on their merry way into the public streets for 9 months! cool! next challenge is the L to P-plate process.

the procedures to getting your P’s are slightly different from state to state, but in canberra at least, there are two avenues. you can take the ‘big/final’ driving test or you can do whats known as ‘logbook’. the first is self explanatory really, whereby you focus as much chi as possible to impress some stiff with a clipboard (over the course of about 10-15 mins) enough for him/her to decide that you are ‘safe’. the other is where you pay through the nose for a “qualified driving instructor” to take you through a logbook of competencies over a series of 6+ hands-on, in-car lessons.

now before i continue, i’d like to explain a little about myself. i am in the “most hazardous/irresponsible” bracket as i am an under 25 y/o male with a history of numerous very fast/modified cars. i chose to take the logbook method to my P-plates as i managed to find what could’ve been THE ULTIMATE driving instructor – a touring car driver/racer who finances his racecar with driving tuition. what made this (anon) man different was that after one and a half logbook lessons and many chats about cars and racing and what have you, he could see that the lessons he was giving me were just not really effective. instead, he took whole mornings out of his schedule and booked the both of us in at the skidpan just out of qbn at fairburn park.

we had two such meetings out there – the first one was spent swapping between passenger/driver as he taught me how to emergency brake, in the wet and in the dry. by the end of the first session, i felt comfortable in slowing a sliding/out of control car in an effective manner. the second session was spent helping me understand the REAL concepts behind speed, car stability, smoothness, weight distribution, grip and most importantly, tricks to remaining calm. i now had an understanding of -why- people get into trouble in the first place. one more regular logbook lesson to confirm that i could reverse parallel, and he checked me off.

three weeks after getting my p-plates i had myself booked in, at my own expense, with a AAMI-approved defensive drivers course. i have completed another two advanced driver training days and attended a few race days since, to develop and hone my own skills and competencies further.

now, while i am admittedly a massive car enthusiast and i take pride in the quality, maturity and courtesy! of my driving at all times, most people would not have the opportunity nor the care/time/will to repeat my course of action. thats fine, each to their own but i am absolutely flabbergasted at how our outdated and inappropriate laws remain. i heard that something like 65% of people who sit the driving test fail because they cannot reverse parallel. WHAT!!!! why aren’t we failing people for not knowing the difference between a brake and accelerator pedal!!??!! (referencing the aforementioned article with all due respect). why isn’t every new driver expected to partake in a defensive driving course? i would’ve predicted the moderate cost to the government/taxpayer/fresh L/P-plater would be massively outweighed by the much-needed emergency abilities we would be equipping our new road users. we expect new drivers to dig into the peanuts for the needless ‘road ready’ course yet surely it isn’t so hard to see which one would offer a more substantial return on investment.

so it seems the washup from todays media coverage is that the government is looking to introduce stricter penalties and restrictions for learner and full-licence-bearing guardian/passenger. this is quite simply a hoax – another revenue-raising stunt, just like the additional p-plate laws/restrictions. in fact this shonky revenue-raising behavior can be found in every aspect of our current road laws, from parking inspectors to speed cams to dodgy cops, but they are other riots for other days

when will the government stop dicking around with band-aid solutions, and take even but a brief glance at the cause? how many people (kamikaze’s!) do we have to let loose with zero skills before someone stands up and says, “hang on, just cos you can reverse parallel, don’t mean you can drive!!!”

phew!

much love

What’s Your opinion?


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47 Responses to
australian road users (and our fraudulent government)
pptvb 11:30 am 02 Dec 08

The biggest issue, as I see it, is the qualifications needed to teach someone to drive.
A drivers licence. That is it !
While we ALL consider ourselves good, competent, safe drivers there are many who would disagree.
How many idiots do we see each day on the road that we believe shouldn’t have a licence?
(mind you, many probably don’t) Yet they are “qualified” to pass on their wisdom!
Mums & Dads passing on their bad, lazy driving habits should not be enough to gain a licence.
Drivers Ed should be mandatory in schools, and only conducted by professionals. Sure, it may cost a fair bit more, but what price do you place on a teenagers life?

cranky 10:39 am 02 Dec 08

Working in the Office of Road Safety many years ago, and being a petrol head, I was interested in pushing advanced driver training as a way of reducing the younger road toll.

I was fairly quickly advised that virtually every study into advanced driver training/accident occurence showed that the higher the level of driver training, the greater the number and severity of accidents by these drivers. I am talking late teen aged students here.

Much as I agree with the OP, human nature is a hard beast to tame.

Holden Caulfield 10:27 am 02 Dec 08

Well said darkmilk, great advice.

mrnamjama 10:26 am 02 Dec 08

I absolutely agree with the OP – people thinking that their nice ‘safe’ driving and zero knowledge about how to handle an emergency situation makes them into a ‘good driver’ are completely deluded.

The whole idea that one’s own driving style is the only thing that decides whether an emergency situation will occur or not is “interesting” to say the least.

How anyone can claim this when there is/are:
at least one other moving vehicle on the road at any one time,
pets running around,
wildlife,
kids,
old people,
drunks,
high speed police chases,
ambulances,
oil slicks,
accidents around blind corners,
L plater motorcyclists coming at you in the wrong lane because they misjudged a corner,
tyre blowouts,
brake failures,
sudden driver heartattacks,
narcoleptic drivers,
epyleptic drivers (and a million other things)

frankly amazes me.

Go out and learn what a car does at the limit, and you will at the very least learn what the best course of action is in an emergency situation. Surely that’s worth something?

darkmilk 10:23 am 02 Dec 08

Congratulations riotdave on completing step 1 of learning to drive, well done, you have done the right thing and have set a good example and put your money where your mouth is so to speak. As implied, I believe you still have 2 more steps though, each more important and difficult than car control (important as it does give you a head start).

Yes, I couldn’t agree more, driver training should definately be more like what you have done. (I also have done advanced/defensive driving courses and they make a huge difference.)

So, on to those further steps:
2) learn how other drivers behave, learn to predict possible things which can go wrong, and how road conditions can change. i.e., experience. Defensive driving gets you started on this step but there’s much more to it.

Controlling the car well does make a difference to this aspect of driving because if controlling the car is natural, and you have practiced extreme situations it leaves your mind free to concentrate on the dangers and avoiding them. Someone who has trouble just moving the car and keeping it in the lane (in my experience stronly correlated with people who can’t park) will be so busy concentrating on that aspect of driving they will not notice the L-plater on the side road about to accidentally drop the clutch, the loose load on the truck ahead, or the car 100m to the left speeding toward the red light. We all know drivers like this, and unfortunately many elderly people who used to be good drivers get to this point too.

3) Concentrate. By far the hardest step. This means always, *absolutely always*, not even most of the time but slipping up occasionally. Look after yourself (taking naps if you’re tired etc), no mobile phone, no fiddling with the radio/computer, no arguments with spouses, stop to check the kids in the back seat and a list of a billion other things that our brains will unfortunately naturally tend to see as more important than the scenery whizzing past if we let them. Again someone who can control the car naturally has a head start here, but only a small one.

mdme workalot 9:49 am 02 Dec 08

Agree with the essence of this post. It is ludicrous that licences are given away so easily – no wonder the serious accident statistics for p-platers is so high.

While doing defensive driving may induce some to push the limits a little further, I believe chances are they will do that anyway as they get more and more confident. I know I’d personally prefer that they are able to control the car when (not if) they lose it.

However, as someone who still cannot reverse parallel park after 10-odd years, I really think I’d better get off my soap box 😛

Holden Caulfield 9:42 am 02 Dec 08

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

Learning how to regain control of a car when it’s out of control is a far more important skill.

Funny – I thought it was learning how to drive so the car never gets out of control in the first place. If you’re all such elite drivers how, exactly, did you find yourself in a situation where you need to get out of a slide? So much for “blah blah I know my car crap crap I can get to its limits without crossing over bullsh.t bullsh.t oh look a tree.”

Head buried in the sand much there Woody?

Ever had a pet run on the road in front of you? Ever had a kangaroo jump out in front of you at dusk? Ever driven in Fyshwick?! As much as you may live in a bubble and think nobody else’s actions could ever impact on your own, you’re wrong. Accidents happen and people do daft things.

Sometimes, you’re right, these are self inflicted accidents. Other times they can be inflicted upon you without warning, regardless of how self-righteous your driving may be.

harvyk1 9:37 am 02 Dec 08

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

Learning how to regain control of a car when it’s out of control is a far more important skill.

Funny – I thought it was learning how to drive so the car never gets out of control in the first place. If you’re all such elite drivers how, exactly, did you find yourself in a situation where you need to get out of a slide? So much for “blah blah I know my car crap crap I can get to its limits without crossing over bullsh.t bullsh.t oh look a tree.”

Your right, a good driver will know how to get out of a situation, a great driver would never get into it in the first place. But here is an example – raining dark night, driving along in a slightly older car without ABS (like the kind a P plater is likely to drive) and a roo jumps out in front of you, you brake but a little to hard and now your car is sliding – here is an example of a dangerous situation which you are in, which you had no way of avoiding bar not driving or purchasing a newer car.

Holden Caulfield 9:37 am 02 Dec 08

Thumper said :

Good on you for putting yourself through all these courses, however, you don’t have to have the skills of Neil Bates, et al to be a good driver on the road.

This post sounds as if you are just blowing your own trumpet about how great you think your driving skills are.

Maybe, maybe not. But many of the OP’s points remain valid.

I’ve done a few track days and skid pan days myself. While some of the days I have been to have been about improving times on the track, a few of the days I’ve been to (mainly skid pan days) have been as much about driver education as they have been about having a good time.

People keep going on about experience. And that’s fair enough, there’s generally no substitute for experience. Surely, then, taking oneself to a controlled area, off the public road and with trained supervision to experience what happens to your car when you lose control is to be applauded, if not thoroughly recommended.

To the people that scorn track days and advanced driver training I ask that you take the time to look further into such activities. Yes, you can probably find a few organisers that are happy to let a few roos loose in the top paddock, but the events I have been to (Eastern Creek, Wakefield Park and Sutton) have been run by reputable companies with a very strong message that hoons and clowning around will not be tolerated. Sure, they want you to have fun, but if you arse about you’ll be sent home without hesitation.

I have no doubt the experience I have gained from such events has made me better equppied to deal with nasty situations on public roads should I ever be faced with them. Note, it has not necessarliy made me a “better driver” as you can’t really use that term without someone else shooting you down. But my experiences have given me a better understanding of what can go wrong, why it went wrong and how to try save it (if you can) after it has gone wrong.

The OP may be clown who thinks he’s the next Lewis Hamilton, I don’t know, but I do know he should be given a pat on the back for having a go at testing himself in tricky situations in a controlled and supervised situation.

People also need to get over the fact that a racing driver can also be a driving instructor for public roads. Believe it or not these guys are human beings just like you and care capable of telling the difference between public roads and closed race circuits.

harvyk1 9:34 am 02 Dec 08

Thumper said :

Learning how to drive in reverse for 30 meters does not a good driver make

In fact, it does. And this is because you are learning how a car works. How can you ever be a good driver if you can’t master a basic skill like reversing?

However, I do agree that licence testing is very lenient and should be much more difficult.

I agree, basic car control is important, but mastering basic car control whilst ignoring the more difficult situations makes for a dangerous situation. You have someone who thinks they are a good driver because they can get a car from A to B, and yet the first time something goes really wrong it often ends badly.

Something which impressed me with RiotDaves story is that he was actually shown some of the physics behind a car. Knowing how little there is actually stopping you, and knowing how much momentum a car really has is important, and in my mind should have a far greater emphasis than reversing for 30 meters.

Woody Mann-Caruso 9:24 am 02 Dec 08

Learning how to regain control of a car when it’s out of control is a far more important skill.

Funny – I thought it was learning how to drive so the car never gets out of control in the first place. If you’re all such elite drivers how, exactly, did you find yourself in a situation where you need to get out of a slide? So much for “blah blah I know my car crap crap I can get to its limits without crossing over bullsh.t bullsh.t oh look a tree.”

Thumper 9:14 am 02 Dec 08

Learning how to drive in reverse for 30 meters does not a good driver make

In fact, it does. And this is because you are learning how a car works. How can you ever be a good driver if you can’t master a basic skill like reversing?

However, I do agree that licence testing is very lenient and should be much more difficult.

harvyk1 9:08 am 02 Dec 08

No S4anta, RiotDave has hit the nail on the head. Learning how to drive in reverse for 30 meters does not a good driver make. Learning how to regain control of a car when it’s out of control is a far more important skill.

RiotDave sounds like a very sensible person, taking on additional driver training is something which I personally think all drivers should be forced to do (I don’t care if you’ve been driving for 50 years).

The car is a funny thing, it is by far the most dangerous piece of equipment that most of us will ever operate, and yet training to use it is done in 6 easy leasons. Furthermore, once you have your license, that’s it, there is no on-going training, no annual competency tests, and no there’s not even annual inspections to confirm the piece of equipment is safe to use. If there was another piece of equipment even half as dangerous on a worksite which safety and training was so lax we’d have unions and workcover jumping up and down.

I like RiotDave have taken an advance driver training course. The most valuable part of the course was when we simulated an emergency stop combined with an emergency turn. My car actually reacted very differently to all the other cars on the day, due to the high quality tyers, handling, steering and suspention, where all other cars skidded straight, my car gripped and the heavy right hand turn took me right off the track into the dirt. Because of this day I now know what to do if a situation like this ever came up again.

It did not wet my appetite, it did however give me the knowledge of how my car is most likely to react if it was put in such a situation again, in an environment which if (when) you lose control, you will walk away alive from.

Thumper 8:58 am 02 Dec 08

Good on you for putting yourself through all these courses, however, you don’t have to have the skills of Neil Bates, et al to be a good driver on the road.

This post sounds as if you are just blowing your own trumpet about how great you think your driving skills are.

S4anta 8:46 am 02 Dec 08

I am finding how an ex racing car driver could be the ultimate tutor a little perplexing. I am sure that you are a safe, respectful driver at least 80% of the time. Yes, years behind the wheel is a good thing, but teaching the young pups how to handle high speed situations awhilst chatting about racing seems to be whetting their (your) appetite to push the limits, which I find more disturbing and more of a risk than someone who finds it hard to reverse parallel park my friend, and I can say this with the full confidence of someone who can crash cars in carparks.

Persoanlly, I think having a situation where you can just fill out a log book, rather than front up to do a test pandering to the lazy and impatient who don’t like standing in lines at the motor registry.

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