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Youngsters, do as I say and not as I do


This week I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of setting a positive example.

As human beings, we tend to be influenced by the actions of authority figures and rightly so. If parents teach their children the value of honesty and integrity, chances are that they’ll grow up to be well-adjusted, successful human beings. This is less likely if your parents tend to lean more towards the Fred and Rosemary West side of things.

Setting a positive example is a huge responsibility and it’s not limited to parenthood. I think every authority figure out there should behave in a manner similar to the behaviour they expect from the people who look up to them.

This memo was obviously missed by a few of these so-called figures out there. Last week it was revealed that an important figure within the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) wasn’t exactly practicing what he so loves to preach. From what I can recall, he was using a fake licence plate, had outstanding fines and his car was displaying an expired licence disk.

To me, it’s ridiculous to expect the average South African motorist to obey the law when even an important figure within the automotive spectrum can’t be bothered to do so. The licence on my car is expiring this month and normally I’d be taking the day off to go get a new one. Not this year. I’m going to follow the example that was set and just roll without one. A policeman might pull me over, but I’ll just tell him not to worry, that’s how we do things now. If that doesn’t work, I’ll follow the example of our two previous national police commissioners and do a shady deal to get myself out of 

While it’s certainly fun to point a finger at politicians, I think we should once again take a long, hard look at our own behaviour on the road.

Last week I was stuck in heavy traffic on Jan Smuts Avenue. A learner driver somehow got herself wedged in the middle lane and from my car I could see the agony on her face. Around her were a few angry Jozi residents who would try absolutely everything to get in front of her.

Chaos ensued as soon as the light went green. This poor, unfortunate young person progressed forward slowly as every other motorist passed her on the left- and right-hand sides. Some of them even hooted in anger, because how dare she hold them up.

I’ve written on the subject of learner drivers before. It’s daunting to take to Jozi’s streets for the first time and the rest of us aren’t helping by adding extra pressure on the poor young soul who’s trying to hone his or her craft. Give them some space and accept the fact that you’ll be stuck behind them for a minute or two. When you think about it in the big scheme of things, it’s really not that bad.

In doing so, you’ll also set a good example to a young driver. As motorists who’ve been doing this driving thing for a while, we have a responsibility to set a positive example to the young person driving next to us. As senior motorists, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make a difference.

Some of you may recall that we ran a few opinion pieces regarding the behaviour of young people on the road a few weeks ago. Back then, I thought the kids were responsible for their own bad behaviour. Now I’m thinking we 
might have set a bad example because if you think about it, the average South African motorist is about as good an influence as Charlie Sheen.

Young South Africans disregard the rules, because it’s what the rest of us have been doing. After years of sitting in the back seat watching your parents swearing and speeding, how can you not think it’s normal behaviour? Forget the kids; it’s 
the rest of us who suck at this driving thing.

So how does one go about setting an example? Obviously we need to be more courteous on the road, but it is possible to take it even further. 

Last week we received a mail from Werner Ackerman of Think Bike. After a series of accidents involving learners, they were invited by the principal to give a presentation on road safety at the school. This kind of thing would normally be presented to the senior learners, but this time the whole school took an hour out of their regular 

Kudos to Think Bike, but even bigger praise should be given to the principal of the high school. Now there’s a man who deserves a Bells.

Setting a positive example like the principal above is a nice gift to the millions of young impending motorists out there. It makes a positive impact, doesn’t cost a thing and is more educational than giving them the middle finger because their driving too slowly in front of you.

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