Our roads are a mess - You think?

Just as we have leapt into our seat at the office, refreshed from a fantastic holiday at the coast (if you’re from Jo’burg) we’re reminded by the monotone voice on the radio of how many road deaths there were while we were on the way to, or frolicking on the beach. It makes me sick to the gut. Losing more than 1,000 lives over what should be a smiley season is just not on. It’s the same at Easter time when the rate of road death increases but on an annual scale, too many people are dying on our roads.

The arguments begin (again) and society argues that the government is to blame, the police are to blame, speed is the killer cause, taxis are the problem, education is the root of the issue, driving schools are the problem, road conditions...and so it goes on.

There is some truth in all of these arguments, but the biggest problem is us. We all think we are above both the law and each other. I read of a study a few years ago that was done in our beloved country that showed that South African’s have the highest rate of people who think they are ‘above average’ drivers. Obviously this is not true.

By what should we as society measure our success as drivers? Road stats are a good yardstick me thinks, and by that measure we are absolutely dreadful. As far as I am concerned that is the ONLY measure by which we should measure our driver skill.

There are solutions of course many of which involve government departments and civil servants, but let’s take it on the chin ourselves too. Most of us are not great drivers. How many of you text and drive? How many of you exceed the speed limit in residential areas? How many of you overtake on blind rises, around corners and on double white lines because you think you can? Why do we kiss each other’s bumpers when we’re following another car (not even in traffic)? Why do we drive cars with tyres that are on the way out? Why do we put our cellphone to our ear while driving even when our car has the connectivity built-in? I saw a guy over the festive using his phone whilst driving a new 6 series Gran Coupe. Seriously?

We do these things because we’re stupid, selfish, impatient, aggressive hypocrites. And we’re stupid. We are ALL contributors to the nastiness on our roads. This is in part an attitude problem.

It’s also sadly an educational, experiential problem. Only once you have experienced loss of control at the wheel of a car, do you realise that you need some help. That is why Finland’s idea of driver education is serious business. It’s not a BS theory test and a BS drive around the quietest suburb with a few hills. It consists of 20 written exams plus a driver test that involves collision avoidance, control on slippery surfaces such as wet, icy and muddy roads. This kind of knowledge saves lives.

We place so much emphasis on the hill test that if you move back even 2cm, you’re failed. Cars nowadays come with hill assistance and who are we going to kill in 2cm? If however, we lose control on a wet road and have no idea what happened or how to control it, then we’re all in trouble...which we are.

Another issue is we tend to do our driver tests in a Toyota Yaris and then go out and buy a car that is rear wheel driven with more than 3 times the power. I kid you not, I have known of people driving M3’s as their first car at 21 years old. Again, it’s an attitude problem perhaps with some misspent money thrown in and stupid parents.

Some quick solutions and ideas:
1)     If the road is wet, muddy, icy, oily etc – traction is reduced. Drive with that in mind.
2)     Don’t text and drive. Don’t read Facebook messages and tweets while driving. When you do these things, you can’t see the road and your surroundings which means you’re driving on autopilot, which your car doesn’t have.
3)     Make sure your car is properly roadworthy.
4)     Check your car regularly – do your pre-journey inspections, get your tyres checked regularly before you set off. (not when they’re hot)
5)     Be aware of pedestrians, cyclists, bikers. They’re road users too contrary to what you might believe and vice versa.
6)     Watch your speed particularly in residential, industrial areas. I love speed, as you know, but there are safe places to wallop your car. As you leave your house on the way to the shops is not one of them.
7)     Keep your eyes on the road as much as possible and be aware of stuff around you. Your mirrors are there to be used, not to deflect air and give you more downforce.
8)     Be aware of the capability and power of your own car. Know it’s limits, know it’s power, know it’s brakes. Do as many dynamic driving/advanced driving courses as you can to be comfortable with rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicle dynamics.
9)     Never assume you know what the other driver is thinking. I promise you, you don’t.
10) Don’t be stupid. Yes you know what I mean.

The long term solution is:
To: JACOB ZUMA and his people: Change the whole driver education system so that it involves some form of experiential learning of the dangers of the open road. 

We need to stop the horror on our roads. As cliched as it may sound, it really must start with YOU! Us. 

AM - 


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