There is a new push on the Internet here to try to do something about the state of driving on Irish roads.
The cynic in me says it’s a waste of time.
Irish drivers must be among the worst in Europe. I don’t know why. The main causes of it seems to be that drivers think that a) they are more important than anyone else on the road or b) that they can impress people by they way they drive or c) they are totally unaware that there are other cars on the road.
I was in France recently. I was horrified. Not horrified by the bad driving in France, because there wasn’t any, but by the way it showed up just how bad Irish driving is. French drivers drive fast. But they rigidly stick to lanes. They keep to speed limits [but then the speed limits in France are very sensible. They only place a limit if there is an absolute need for it]. They indicate to overtake, and indicate to pull back in again. They keep out of the fast lane unless they are overtaking. In fact, their lane discipline is fantastic.
I drove a total of 2,250 kilometers when I was there. I never had one moment when I cursed another driver. Not one heart stopping moment. It was a real pleasure to drive. I felt safe.
In the relatively short trip from Rosslare to home, I had several near accidents. They ranged from people overtaking as they came towards me, forcing me onto the hard shoulder, to people suddenly braking [without indicating] to turn off the main road.
The Irish government has got it into its collective thick head that speed kills. They stick signs up everywhere telling us this. They introduce draconian and stupid speed limits. They penalise us for any infringement. Here is a bit of news for them – speed does not kill. Very few people have died from speeding. What kills is bad driving. What kills is inexperience. What kills is people driving beyond their own limits.
I have had a full licence for the last 35 years. I could drive safely beyond most speed limits as could the majority of Irish drivers. We know our limits. We slow down if the road is wet or if there is a bend. We don’t overtake if it isn’t safe to. We are patient because we know we will get there.
The answer to all of this is not new laws, penalty points, speed limits or speed ramps. The answer to this is training, and a stiff assessment system.
At the moment, a kid can go out on a sunny summer’s day, and drive around a town with an inspector. If they can do that properly, they are told they are proficient to drive. Hah! What about driving in rain? Or snow? Or on a motorway? Or fog? Or in the city at half five in the afternoon?
And what about that insane rule that says that you can have an unlimited number of provisional licences? If a person can’t pass the test on their second or third attempt then they are not fit to drive. End of story. Some people just aren’t cut out to drive, just as some people aren’t cut out to fly a plane.
So what I would suggest to the government is this.
First of all, introduce a proper driving test. Use simulators as well as practical driving. You wasted enough of our money on a crazy e-voting system that no one wanted, so don’t claim lack of cash.
Next, have a simple rule – if you caught breaking the law twice [everyone deserves a second chance] you lose your licence. Full stop. Not for six months or a year or two. It is gone.
However, you can apply for a new one, but you have to go through the whole testing process again.
Now you can remove all those speed ramps, and stupid speed limits. Keep the sensible ones all right, if you must. You have cut out the minority who shouldn’t be behind the wheel, so the rest of us can drive around without having a coronary every five minutes.
I think you’d be surprised how the accident rate drops, not to mention the hundreds of lives that would be saved.