Like many people, I have been questioning if the government’s heavy reliance on the ‘speed and energy’ approach to road safety is correct and if not, what is the correct solution if we are serious about road safety?
It has taken a while but I think I have found the ‘missing link’ in all of the multi-million dollar road safety programs and ever tougher regulations and penalties.
The answer, I believe, is simple COURTESY.
Many of the bad things we see on the roads these days are not being addressed by current laws or road safety efforts. For example, we ignore or feel we can’t talk about “stupid” behaviour on the roads. I contend we can use courtesy as the key to address many road safety concerns.
Have you ever seen?
- Vehicles turn without indicating or too late? This is simply a lack of courtesy for others.
- Cars stopped and holding up a long que of traffic so they can turn right? Lack of courtesy.
- Vehicles travelling slowly in the right hand lane holding up traffic? Lack of courtesy.
- Drivers using a smart phone while driving, or at the lights? Lack of care and courtesy.
- A vehicle travelling dangerously fast in traffic. Lack of care and courtesy.
- A vehicle hanging out of a parking bay obstructing other traffic? Lack of courtesy.
- A vehicle rushing through an amber light while you are waiting to turn? Lack of courtesy.
- Aggressive drivers in traffic? Lack of courtesy.
- A driver pull in front of you without a “thank you” wave after you let them in? Lack of courtesy.
- A pedestrian step onto the road without looking? Lack of courtesy.
As can be seen all of the above examples have one common factor – lack of courtesy!
Tougher Licence Requirements
Many young drivers and motorbike riders are being caught grossly exceeding the speed limits or tragically being killed or injured in serious crashes at a higher rate than the general motoring population.
As part of their response authorities are making it harder to get a licence, but this initiative does not appear to yield better drivers.
For proof, look at the ‘P’ platers who exhibit many similar bad habits that we see in older drivers. For example, not using indicators or too late, or travelling needlessly in the right-hand lane holding up traffic, or distracted at lights and not moving off briskly when the signals change green.
If the tougher requirements for getting a licence were effective we should see better behaviour in younger drivers, but we don’t see this.
If we can’t get young drivers and riders to care enough about their own safety to adjust their behaviour maybe we can use courtesy to get them to think of other road users?
Courtesy or More Speed Limits
Let’s look at speed limits in residential areas. The speed limit used to be 60kph and some years ago residential areas were reduced to 50kph, with 40kph zones in proximity to schools. We now hear periodically of calls for 30kph zones in residential streets.
The logic is - if 50kph was good then 40kph will be better, and 30kph even safer. Can you guess the next step if you want to improve road safety future years – 20 or 10kph?
Have you ever seen a vehicle gradually slow down for no apparent reason, then suddenly make a turn or change lane, and only indicate at the last second? This is an example of a lack of courtesy.
Over-Taking Cyclists or other Vehicles
As a keen cyclist and motorist I am sometimes surprised or shocked when a discourteous driver nearly clips my handle bars eg way too close. Interestingly, these same drivers veer wide when they pass a parked car. Suggesting to me they deliberately skimmed close to me (as a cyclist). It doesn’t matter if they did this to intimidate or scare me or others, it is discourteous.
If all drivers had courtesy as a core value we would need less reliance on road laws and tougher penalties to achieve safer roads. Let’s look for opportunities every day to help other road users eg courtesy.
If interested in more information on innovative road safety you can speak to our CEO Gary Rowe, or visit our road safety link on our website.