Monday, 24 November 2008

Accidents happen, but some could be avoided.

This week in Jersey, a newly qualified driver's first experience of the rain-sodden leaves, so typical of country roads in autumn, was a spectacular crash. Fortunately she and her passenger, who had recently also survived a similar incident, walked away with trivial injuries; a vindication of the modern cage-and-crumple-zone school of car design. One wonders if the requirements of contemporary driving tests are quite meeting the needs of the general public, or whether they are encouraging instructors to teach a narrower range of skills and knowledge, than their pupils will need, when they become everyday road users. The Compulsory Basic Training inflicted on learner motorcyclists these days may be tiresome and expensive, but one does not seem to read of accidents to young bikers so often as one used to. Perhaps it should form a model for the future of car tuition, in which key skills for coping with difficulties could be taught without the overload of learning general traffic techniques at the same time.

Possibly, we should rethink our whole approach to a variety of traffic offences from scratch: Speeding has become a team sport with motorists on one side and the police on the other, and sometimes the point of why one should not go too fast gets a bit lost.A radical thought I have, and it is so against contemporary culture that the kite needs to be flown for a long time, before anyone seriously tried to implement it, is that all speed limits should be abolished. Instead the responsibility should be placed firmly on the driver to match their speed to the circumstances. If drivers faced a mandatory ban on a similar tariff to drink-driving for contributing to an accident by inappropriate speed for the conditions, then a lot of people who now just glance at the speedo and think that they are alright, because they are legal, might think a little harder as to whether they are actually driving safely. In good conditions, of clear roads, long sightlines and firm grip, traffic could move somewhat more briskly than it does, but anything that persuaded drivers to be more wary of other traffic, especially pedestrian, blind bends and slippery patches would surely be a good thing.

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