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Monday, May 27, 2013

The Great Driving Test Debate by Scotto

(As it's Scotto's birthday tomorrow I invited him to write a guest post. He has some brilliant arguments... please enjoy!)

Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? If you haven’t you should put it on your must watch list for a glimpse into the potential future of our society.  It’s quite a funny movie but it makes you think and at times you can’t help but feel the movie has a slightly prophetic feel to it.
Just look at what the TV stations try to pass off as entertainment these days.  Reality show after reality show and yes, I’ll admit to watching some of them such as X Factor and Bondi Rescue, but there are those that are so mind numbingly stupid you have to wonder what idiot came up with the concept and what TV executive gave it the green light. Of course it could be that the idiot and the executive are one and the same person.  Shows like Big Brother should be banned as a public health service.
Take Celebrity Splash for instance, did they really think a bunch of has-beens jumping in to a pool was riveting telly?  The whole series could have been condensed to a 5 minute gag reel so the fact that it bombed (no pun intended) gives me some hope that we haven’t yet reached the tipping point of stupidity.
Last night, while sitting down relaxing with Pinky and sipping on wine chatting about the complexities of life (ok, we were probably talking rubbish), that RBT police show came on and there was a teenager who had lost control of his six cylinder Ford and wrapped it around a light pole.  Thankfully everyone was alright but it brings me to the point of my post, the hotly debated subject of P-Plate drivers and the plethora of ideas being bandied about in an attempt to stop such incidents.
The latest push is to make driving tests tougher and extend the P-Plate period until age 25.  While I agree that a driving test should not be a walk in the park and driver education is extremely important, I think they’re missing another important point – the cars themselves. We can talk to our kids until we’re blue in the face but the truth is, they’re not listening to us. You can give them all the statistics, show them stories of fatal crashes yet the usual answers you get are things like, “Well obviously I’m not going to have an accident” or they roll their eyes at you as if you’ve just said the stupidest thing ever.  The point they are missing is that nobody leaves the house intending to have an accident, that’s pretty much why they’re called accidents.  But, teenagers being teenagers know everything and they must blindly follow that unwritten teenage law, everyone older than them is an idiot and must be treated as such.  Maybe it’s something hard-wired into them but it’s annoying as hell.
So what’s the answer? Well there’s no easy quick fix but perhaps if we change from focussing on one aspect we should look at the big picture.  First of all, take away access to powerful cars, six or eight cylinders and any car considered performance cars.  They have far too much power for inexperienced drivers to handle.  Limit their choices to low power four cylinder cars and have speed limiters in them.  Set the maximum speed of the car to 110kph (this should probably be done to all cars as speeding is not limited to P-Platers).  Perhaps the government is simply too afraid to push through legislation that will be unpopular, but wait, they didn’t mind pushing the carbon tax through and that was supposedly ‘for our own good’. 
Of course teenagers and Civil Libertarians will vehemently oppose such restrictions but you know what?  Too bad, isn’t protecting the lives of our children our (and society’s) responsibility?  Would you rather have a complaining teenager or a dead one? Bit of a no brainer really isn’t it? Besides, they’ll always complain about something so don’t feel too bad for them, especially the Civil Libbers.  
Back when I was a teenager my first car was a 1967 Mini that cost me $200 and it was my pride and joy.  British racing green but it was a gutless wonder and quite frankly, a piece of crap.  My skateboard was worth more but I still loved that car.  Of course it wasn’t without its faults and as you would expect of such a car, it had its fair share of breakdowns.  During one such period I had to borrow Dad’s car and his had a lot more power than mine and going around a roundabout in the wet I found the back-end slipping out on me.  I’d like to say I slipped into Nicolas Cage ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ mode and skilfully counter steered and brought the car under control while being admired by all and sundry.  The truth is that I had no idea what to do in that situation and I ended up facing the wrong way and it scared the bejeesus out of me and I looked like a right goose.  I wasn’t driving like an idiot, I was just inexperienced, especially on wet roads and it surprised me just how easy it was for that sort of thing to happen.  After that I went and took all the driver training courses I could find so in future I would know what to do if I ever found myself in that situation again.
The biggest hurdles we face in trying to convey these dangers to our kids, is that they have a tendency to see us as preachy or that ‘things are different now’.  We may have safer cars but regardless of how high the safety rating is, you drive it like an idiot the end result is not going to change.  V8 Supercars are nothing like their street going counterparts and the drivers of those can survive a crash at 200kmh thanks to the reinforced safety cages, racing harnesses and helmets – things normal cars don’t have.  Do that in any street car and you’ve got zero chances of survival – no matter how many airbags you have.
At the end of the day young drivers don’t need powerful cars, they need reliable ones they can get experience in. I’m 42 and am only just getting my dream car so show some patience kids! You’ll be far less likely to put a dent in your car with some experience under your belt.
 We, as a responsible society, have a duty to guide teenagers safely through the beginning of their adult lives and sometimes that means being the bad guy and making decisions that aren’t going to be popular.  You know what though?  They’ll get over it.
Will this idea fix everything? No, but I reckon it could help improve the situation.
I can already hear some of the arguments, well I’ve got some answers.
I need a more powerful car to tow my work trailer…
Get a turbo diesel ute such as a Hilux.  A turbo diesel has all the pulling power you need, you don’t need an XR8 that can do 0-100 in 6 seconds. A turbo diesel is vastly different to a turbo petrol engine.
I have to use the highway to get to work…
I might need to overtake someone…
If you need to go faster than 110kph to overtake then you don’t need to overtake.
If the speed is limited to 110kph what’s to stop people speeding in suburban streets?
Unfortunately nothing, however the fact they’re in a 4 cylinder buzz box and not a performance car might change their outlook.  You can’t do donuts in a Toyota Starlet!  While we may not eliminate speeding we can put the brakes on hooning.
What’s to stop people modifying the cars to get around the restrictions?
One hell of a fine and confiscation of their car would be a good start.  Mandatory Department of Transport checks when renewing registration would put the brakes on this practice.
Aren’t we just molly coddling them and giving them the impression that we don’t trust them?
No, molly coddling is giving in and saying yes to everything.  It’s not a question of trust, it’s protecting teenagers from themselves.  While they need to be allowed to find their own way in life it’s up to us to intervene if their safety is at risk.
I’m not driving a car like that!
Then I guess you don’t drive.  
It’s not fair…
But they’re just being kids, you probably did stupid stuff when you were a kid…
Isn’t the role of a parent to pass on to our kids the lessons we learnt to help and protect them?  I got a couple of speeding tickets when I was young, does that mean the kids can justify speeding ‘because I did it’? Of course not, that’s a cop out. They will try and use it against you of course but as the adults we just need to stand firm.  We always hear about learning lessons from previous generations for the betterment of society, why is this any different?
But my little angel deserves this big shiny muscle car! Seeing them happy makes me happy!
Number one they probably don’t deserve it. Number two, how happy are you going to be when they wrap that over-powered behemoth around a tree and kill themselves or their friends? There’s plenty of time in their life to get a car like that after they get more experience.
Kids will always do silly things but if we give in and do nothing, do we even deserve to be parents? It’s up to us to teach our kids but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. They may hate you for it in the short term but if it means getting them through alive, isn’t it worth it?

If your kids don’t hate you at some point in their life then you’re doing it wrong.