But it seems road conditions are merely one area of fault and our focus should rather be on fellow drivers. A deep lack of common courtesy has arisen in recent years. Every week we get countless letters from our readers complaining about other motorists who have a complete lack of respect for one another, particularly when it comes to highway driving and four-way stops.
We all know about the Field’s Hill accident and tragic loss of life. We are also learning about the events before the accident, like how the driver didn’t have the necessary qualification to operate such a large vehicle. What worries me is the example we are setting for the drivers of tomorrow; those scholars who still need to pass their licences and get thrown into the carnage that is South African roads.
The degradation of drivers is alarming and our licensing system is by no means adequate enough to prepare the youth for our roads. The learner’s test makes new drivers familiar with road signs and what to do when heading out onto the streets. But theory and practice are two very different things. That’s why Bridgestone, along with driving.co.za, has introduced a driving-simulator experience with the aim of promoting road safety among young and future drivers, even if they’ve never driven before.
This initiative is run at selected schools and brings the simulator to the school for a day to provide learners the opportunity to learn how to operate a motor vehicle in a completely safe environment.
We all know how intimidating driving can be, particularly when you are still learning. That’s why a programme like this is so important. The road and traffic conditions can be manipulated to give learners a better understanding of the dangers involved with driving, from heavy traffic to people skipping robots and even having trees fall into the road.
The drive lasts for about 15 minutes and once completed, the learner receives a printout of their drive, highlighting any errors they may have made. The simulator is marked to K53 standards, hence it will provide drivers with a better understanding of where they will need to improve before tackling their actual test.
Beyond this, after completing the simulator experience, the driver is comprehensively debriefed by one of the skilled trainers.
It’s small, simple initiatives like this that will better help prepare the next generation of motorists. Sadly, however, only a small number of students benefit from such an experience.
We also need a complete overhaul of the licensing examination and test in South Africa, because - besides many new drivers being ill prepared to drive every day - the high levels of corruption in the licensing department means someone with a few extra bucks can bribe their way to a licence and be the next menace on the road.
So where do we even begin? Now without sounding like a cliché, change starts with us. If you have a child that’s learning how to drive, make sure they go through the proper channels and are adequately prepared for their test. If an advanced driving course is an option, do it! These specialised courses will open your eyes to just how dangerous a vehicle can be in the wrong hands in the wrong conditions, especially when the roads are wet.
Furthermore, we need to change our behaviour towards one another. I recently returned from a long drive from Mpumalanga and our attitude towards each other is saddening. People hog the fast lane, pull out into the road without looking, have a total disregard for indicators and the rules of the road. And for what? To get home a few minutes earlier, they would rather put their own and others’ lives at risk?
I used to find driving therapeutic and crave the open road to clear my mind. Now I’m incredibly fearful when I head out. I’m more cautious when crossing intersections and travelling in general, all because I don’t only have to focus on what I’m doing and my surroundings, but also have to be able to react immediately when some idiot decides to pull in front of me out of nowhere at snail’s pace.