A Clockwork Orange

Road Safety chairman too focused on speed         11 July 2006

Road safety is a tough call.

Repeating platitudes however, does not work and Road Safety chairman Grant Dorrington should recognize this.

West Australians are poor drivers and we should face that fact, suck it up and get on with it.

Too many WA drivers are so defensive they cause accidents. Similarly, other drivers on our roads become too easily frustrated and roar dangerously past the over cautious.

For my part, I am one of the latter.+ I think I’m a good driver because I have awareness of many other factors on the road, including cars well ahead of me. Defensive drivers worry about what’s in their rear view mirror and have a love affair with their brakes.

The converse of this argument is that my family and others close to me disagree with my personal assessment. They say I’m a shocker!

I try and merge in traffic. I see an gap, put the blinker on and attack the rear light of the car I wish to get behind. Sometimes people toot (I once had an Aunty who wouldn’t drive her station wagon because the horn was not working) and I ignore them.

My argument is that in busy cities I have visited, there is constant merging of traffic and no one seems to get upset and – this may only be anecdotal – you never seem to see an accident.

CRASH DUMMIES: SIMULATED ACCIDENTS COULD HELP DRIVERS

All this gets me to the point. Grant Dorrington, it’s not working son and something’s got to change. The Road Safety chairman is beating an old drum and its timbre is off.

Road safety should start and finish with education and it should start in high schools and teenagers should be given detailed and extensive hands-on practice at driving.

This should include being in a car with a driver who does a spin out and ‘crashes’ into some tyres or some other safety barrier. If they need simulators instead, the WA Government should buy them.

We should be creating better drivers, encouraging older people to do the same courses and let the rest depart this life or their licence by attrition because there will always be mugs like me who reckon we’re great drivers when the evidence – whether it be number of road accidents or members of my inner circle who want to shop me – is to the contrary.

Lowering the speed limit won’t work. It will just make the speed at impact less. Good result? But at what cost to the rest of our lives? I don’t mind driving to the shop at 30km/h but I’m not going to Bunbury at that speed.

More multanovas? More fines from these black eyes on our main roads? People just pay them and continue to speed because they think they need to be in a hurry.

If during our current police work to rule, patrol cars with flashing lights are put before multanovas to warn motorists, why not do this all the time and remove the speed traps? Answer: The Plod have thieves and rapists to catch.

It begs the question and the cynicism of the motorist. Multanovas are raising revenue for the government and they don’t want it to stop. They also raise revenue to fund the Office of Road Safety.

This is a conflict of interest for Mr Dorrington. Speeding fine revenue pays his salary. If we continue the status quo, accidents will continue to happen. Change the policy and it may just work?

It’s a bit like the old Wizard of Id joke:

Sir Rodney: Sire, the countrys 50% unemployment has been reduced to zero.

The King: Thats great news.

Sir Rodney: ‘Now weve just got to find work for the other 50% whose job it was to get everyone back to work.

I am not questioning Mr Dorrington’s motives here but if the road safety puzzle is ever satisfactorily solved, there will be no need for an Office of Road Safety.

SOLUTION MAY TAKE EXTREMES

Cynical? You bet! You’ve come to the right place.

But it does beg the question. Why not look at other solutions to what is an ongoing problem?

Driver education is a start but it needs to be personal. Advertising campaigns aimed at getting people to wear seat belts have failed if 23%* of the more than 100 killed on WA roads this year were not wearing seat belts.

Start with the kids. Make them accomplished drivers before they get their driver’s licence and scare the bejesus out of them by simulating a crash, experiencing the real thing with a stunt driver at the wheel and then take them to visit the victims of past accidents, sadly living their remaining lives in wheelchairs.

It may sound a bit A Clockwork Orange but it’s time we did something else because what’s going on just ain’t working.

+Much more mature today I am not like this. Just old and a crap driver

* Acting Assistant WA Police Commissioner Wayne Gregson, ABC Mornings, July 10, 2006

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