The controversy of driving:
Should we see it as your right to drive as some would argue, or should it be something that is earned and respected; in my opinion the latter far outweighs the former, supported by hard facts.
I could spend all day referring you to many studies with their scientific facts and figures that highlight the dangers of driving and how easily driving can cause death, maim and cost you as an individual unnecessary and ill afforded expense and society in general billions, as it already does. Fortunately for you I won`t, as you already know this, right!?
Road Deaths a global Epidemic – “traffic fatalities are a global epidemic on par with malaria and tuberculosis……the epidemic has reached crisis proportions…. set to get worse over the years ahead.” – Kevin Watkins, a Brookings Institute researcher who authored the report
Just take the time to stop taking calls on your cell, stop texting and even turn off your radio and pay attention when you next drive to work or homeward and you would swear that very few people on the road know this, or care about it at all. It seems that people climb into their car and are then in another world.
Doing monthly research often leads me to accidentally discover some interesting items, one is a book written by Nicholas Faith, “Crash the limits of car safety” where he essentially defines driving as a self controlled and amazingly organised ritually that rather surprisingly doesn’t have a worse track record than it already does. One of his comments are, “It makes matters worse that so many men, and a growing number of women as well, use driving to express themselves and define their personalities”
South Africans are an impatient and aggressive driving nation, that’s a fact and has been shown in many studies. It is not so much this aggression that is the problem, it is the combination of the lack of will to enforce the professional standard of driving and the enforcement of this mindset from ground level learners licence driving through to ongoing enforcement of the laws on the road, let`s look at that from another perspective.
Being in a rush and driving quickly could be construed by some as being impatient and aggressive, however logically this does need not to be so. Driving faster than one would normally do does not mean that we need to disobey the road rules, disrespect others rights on the road, but we do.
One aspect of response vehicle driver training is the issue of never assuming that the other driver knows that you are there and what they are going to do. This principal is heightened during response vehicle driving due to the inherent increased in speed and therefore dangers, but remains applicable to the everyday driver that may be in a rush. You are in a rush and unintentionally cut someone off that you had presumed had seen you coming, he raises his ire at you and instead of apologizing, you take offence and scream back “+#$%… can you see I`m in a rush”, no he didn`t!
As we progress through life, we quickly learn that it is very easy to become disliked and nowhere is this easier to be seen than where someone takes a strong stand for something that is right and should be enforced. As a simple example, we find countless “driving school” vehicles on the road with driver trainers that are not official driver trainers, that themselves have only held a drivers license for months that talk on the cell phone and don’t wear seatbelts when the learner driver is driving. Yet this industry, undoubtedly key to the standard of drivers that we produce on the roads, is in utter disarray, largely unregulated.
Im sure there would be those in the driving school industry that would argue, so let`s look at one of many other issues. The number of foreign drivers both driving in South Africa as working drivers in South Africa, based on the premise that they hold a legitimate license from one of the SADC countries is unknown. The National Department Of Transport cannot indicate what these figures are. You may ask what relevance this has?. As any SAPS or Traffic officer how they go about determining what a legitimate license is from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and many of the other countries and you find no definitive answer. There is no legitimate means of determining, should we try and call them, with these countries if a particular license is legitimately obtained through a formal system of theirs. This therefore allows anyone with a fraudulently obtain license to be accepted as a driver in South Africa.
It may seem that I am “pointing a finger a government”, in fact that is not so, I am pointing a finger at society, as it is we that have become accepting of these poor standards, allowing the idea of it being our right to drive and not one of being a right that should be earned appropriately. The driving school industry and the issue of foreign drivers on our roads among many other uncontrolled issues, remains an unregulated and unmonitored problem that only the government has the power to rectify.
Self-regulation has been taunted as the answer, however many self-regulated industries have proven time and again that they cannot regulate themselves due to nepotism, general corruption, lack of enforcement and general mismanagement. This is not to say that self-regulation does not work, however that self-regulation needs to be monitored by government as a pro-active function and not a re-active operation when the situation has already reached “epidemic proportion” as we now have.
But it is not only Governments lack of enforcement and regulation that has me questioning. Beyond the specific laws of the land that regulate as a whole the traffic and transport industry, namely the National Road Traffic Act, this same act regulates and guides to a large extent the insurance industry, along with the relevant insurance acts. It could be argued very strongly that the insurance industry is even more powerful than government as the strength of the insurance industry in terms of it`s monetary contribution to the fiscal wellbeing of the country is unquestionably one of the biggest and is therefore almost always respected and consulted.
Yet, we find that there are multiple bodies that the many insurance industries are able to be associated to, each of these being wholly autonomous, interestingly, these bodies are effectively self-regulating.
It would probably be denied, however the practice of not pursuing criminal actions against an insured that voluntary retracts a fraudulent claim (or is investigated and actually caught!), where the insurer knows that fraud has taken place, is not uncommon and would appear to fly in the face of the requirement of one`s legal obligation to report and pursue such illegal actions, or face criminal charges one`s self. This does our situation no favors.
Another of those all too wise words penned a long time ago comes from a book called Road Sense, the art of advanced driving by Doug Holland, where he pens “a book for everybody, at whatever stage in their driving lives they happen to be, who recognises that in the wrong hands a motor vehicle on a public road is a lethal weapon with the capacity to wreck lives”. How frighteningly true when we consider that one driver can decimate 24 lives instantly with a vehicle, surely this brings home the principal of Earn your right to drive.
Looking back at an article penned nearly six years ago, entitled “A critical opinion of our transport system past present and future”,
Is it not now time that more than ten years on, in this democracy and acceptance of the constitution, that we adopt a more professional and thorough implementation of decision making that will lead not only to the short term successes, but the long term improvement and sustainability of the transport system, that has so often, and as is quite correctly so regularly made reference to as being the life blood of any countries success.
So, is it your right, or something seen to be earned and respected? Firstly, I would be as bold as to say that if you were in the company of one of our ministers that so unfortunately lost an immediate family member to a drunken driver, or for that matter one of South Africa`s high profile dignitaries that have been convicted of a serious traffic offence, I would hope that both would undoubtedly agree that driving should be earned.
Personally, I would think that my review of where we stand at current paints a clear picture of my strong and unreserved belief that driving is something that is first and foremost to be earned and respected. This is done with unwavering standards and likewise ongoing enforcement. That said, it does remain everyone`s right to be afforded the opportunity to obtain their license through a process of defined, strict teaching, learning, enforcement and regulation.
It is this system of control and regulation that needs to be addressed, not the issue of one`s right or not.