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!!!”