I’m gonna show off right up front… I have never lost a single demerit point while driving a car in almost 48 years!
Okay, I’ve had two ‘small fines’. The first was for not carrying my licence (once) after I had accidently left it at home while applying for a passport online. The most annoying part of that episode was we had been to a birthday party in town and I was the ‘nominated driver’ . Jober as a sudge (seriously, not even one drink). The second was a speeding fine (also only once) while trying to drive my mother-in-law home from a family get together, Newcastle to Sydney (120km in 110km zone) — basically keeping up with everyone else on a downhill run.
Un-Lucky? Probably. I’m not perfect.
My dad used to joke about the time a policeman pulled him up for minor speeding and he said, “I’ve never been stopped for speeding before”, to which the policeman replied “good driving sir or good luck?”
Anyway after going through the mandatory ‘L-Plate’ period where my dad actually taught me to drive (a manual), I got my licence in Papua New Guinea — Port Moresby to be precise in 1970, aged 17. I always love to tell the story of the driving test. “Okay sir, can you drive down the end of the street, do a U-turn then come back here and park.”
Officer: “Now sir – what does this sign mean?”
Me: “Ummm STOP?”
Officer: “Very good… and what should you do?”
Me: “Errr STOP?”
Yep, that was it. Really! From then on I was a licenced driver in PNG and Australia given at that time PNG was under Australian governance overall.
Yet, so many drivers on our roads are driving me crazy these days! Tailgating, speeding in confined spaces, darting in and out of lanes, not indicating at all or indicating just as they are about to turn and worse. On the phone, eating, drinking… but most of all erratic driving behaviour. Almost as if they’re all angry at something or someone. Don’t get me wrong, but both red and green ‘P-Platers’ are among the worst!
It seems that these days, the concentration drivers require to be safe on the road is not focussed on other drivers and the conditions, rather just on themselves with little to no thought of the consequences.
As life seems to get a lot more pressured we’re all in a hurry to ‘get somewhere’ on time. More cars on the road equals traffic jams. Overcrowded and ‘often running late’ public transport means we hop in our cars thinking we can beat the chaos. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
While I don’t have the answer — maybe you do — I’m not ‘Peter Perfect’ ( I did have the privilege of being driven in a car by the late great ‘Brocky’), but I do think we need to be teaching all drivers, experienced or not to take a mental ‘chill pill’ and look at the consequences of what is basically road rage.
For my next (and every other) licence renewal, I’d like to see our governments run mandatory programs showing not only the physical damage of a car crash, but also the emotional issues where someone has died or been severely injured. Perhaps insurance companies could fund this — it might even save them some money on payouts. All drivers should also be required to drive a large caravan and/or truck as part of their driver training to understand they can’t stop or manouvere as fast as your average car.
In the meantime, take a deep breath. Stay focussed and in the words of my favourite poem from 1927, Desiderata: ‘Go placidly amidst the noise and haste…’.