Editorial: Tough test no cure for bad habits

By Roger Moroney

1 comment

About 20 years ago, when I had about 17 or 18 years of driving experience under my belt (seatbelt of course), I took the driving test.

It's not that I'd been driving unlawfully for all that time and finally decided to abide by the law - it was simply an idea I had for a story about driving habits.

I approached the traffic chaps who oversaw the tests and they agreed to let me "sit it".

I went into it safe in the knowledge I had the thing tucked into my wallet anyway, and also assured by my safety record, not to mention many years on motorcycles which had taught me ironclad defensive habits.

So I took the test and after we pulled up and I turned the engine off the smiling officer nodded and simply said "Congratulations, Rog ... you failed."

I jovially pointed out that I hadn't hit anyone, and was only abusive to the bloke on the pushbike because he was a mate, but I was told that I simply had not attended to the rear mirror enough.

"You can drive all right ... you're a very good driver ... but you only checked your rear mirror twice." Ahhh, the old rear mirror.

I had checked it scrupulously when I sat the test when I was 19, but on that day I was just too casual ... but it made for a good story.

The New Zealand Transport Agency carried out a driving test shake-up back in March as a way to stem a concerning number of crashes involving mainly young people.

Which I found intriguing ... because from what I've always seen and experienced it's not the level of skill or ability or recognition of hazards ... it's simply the age.

The young, basically, often like to show out and show off.

Now don't get me wrong, not all of them do, but there is a good number who will push the boundaries.

Even the most accomplished and successful young driving test participant in the world is likely to one day feel the automotive sap rising as a twisting series of fast bends reveals itself in front of them.

Or they (in a fleeting and regrettable moment of daring) seek to emulate a sideways stunt they saw someone else pull off.

Or they simply believe they can get home just fine ... despite the five bourbon and colas they are already carrying as passengers.

Last month, 54 per cent of people sitting the tough new test failed and, while I believe toughening the test was a good thing, I also believe it should come with some sort of graphic and no-nonsense illustration of what happens if a driver chooses to take a risk, or a drink, or a wrong decision.

In a way it's like shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted - the horse being the dopey and hopeless drivers, of all ages, we unfortunately already have out there, courtesy of loose training and testing standards in years gone by.

Perhaps we'll start to see the benefits through crash statistics in decades to come, as members of the bad habits brigade finally pull over and park it up.

Time will tell, although in a country that has long embraced the slightly errant social concept of "one for the road", I have my doubts.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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