From the passenger seat, driving instructors get a unique perspective, and a quick lesson in the level of ignorance, selfishness and just plain incompetent driving out there.
With a student at the wheel, someone just venturing out into this scary and dangerous wheeled world, instructors feel as though there is a target painted on the trunk or tailgate. It appears many fellow motorists forget they had to learn once — actually, many appear to have never learned at all.
It’s entertaining to be teaching technique and proper operation and control when surrounded by so much incompetence! Imagine how it feels to be stressing driving etiquette, when you have a windshield filled with ignorance and selfishness. Forget about manners, respect and consideration of others, it’s everyone for himself!
Obviously, the majority of drivers do not fall into this category — but the number and severity of problems becomes pretty evident from the unique perspective of a vehicle following the rules, maintaining proper speed and following distances etc.
The first and most common thing you notice is excessive speed — motorists traveling much faster than the flow of traffic.
The universal disregard for speed limits is a critical issue. The BC government says unsafe speed contributes to 38 per cent of all fatal motor vehicles crashes. Using volunteer “Speed Watchers” they once conducted a “two strikes and you’re out” campaign. The first step involved portable roadside units that show motorists both the posted limit and their actual speed. Strike two involved a fine when they fail to reduce their speed — in other words when they ignored the law. This community-based volunteer program used the catch phrase “It wouldn’t kill you to slow down.”
Admittedly there are cases where the limit is too low — generally identifiable where literally everyone is traveling in excess of the posted limit. But these are commonly on limited access roadways with traffic flowing in one direction, nor narrow streets with children playing and vehicles parked everywhere.
Yet, these more crowded areas, where stop signs and traffic lights are installed to regulate traffic flow, and protect both motorists and pedestrians, is where motorists are now ignoring lights and stop signs.
Failure to wear a restraining device is another common problem contributing inordinately to the casualty count. Studies show the 10 per cent of Canadian drivers who don’t wear belts, account for 40 per cent of the all highway deaths.
In Ontario, amidst all the ruckus about red light cameras and photo radar a few years back, the OPP found 90 per cent of children were not buckled in properly.
When traffic deaths in Nova Scotia spike, the cause is usually attributable to speed, often combined with not wearing belts and/or alcohol — a pretty ugly combination
Flagrant abuse of the law has become acceptable as more and more motorists think of themselves first. It is commonplace to think the rules are for others, that you’re a better driver or you’re in a hurry so you can bend or break the law, that it’s OK because everyone’s doing it.
There is an almost complete contempt for regulations regarding the operation of a motor vehicle on public roads.
Speeding, drinking, no belts, poor lane discipline, improper spacing, failure to use signals etc. The list is lengthy.
So what’s the solution?
Traffic laws are put in place to control traffic flow, to protect lives and reduce the likelihood of crashes, injuries and deaths.
But due to budget restrictions and the resulting lack of manpower and resources, law enforcement agencies are no longer able to properly patrol and police, leading to the growing use and popularity of remote electronic recording devices.
But even if found guilty, courts rarely provide the incentive to improve. Maybe that’s the answer.
Driving is not a right — it is a privilege. Politicians, rule-makers and judges need to see what police, paramedics do — or driving instructors.