Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Road Safety

I am tired of hearing people blame the state of New Zealand roads for the rate of accidents in this country. I have driven extensively in the 30+ years I have held a Driver's Licence. My view is that New Zealand roads are adequate for use by a competent driver. New Zealand has too few tax payers to be able to afford to have roads built to the kind of standard some people seem to be expecting if we want to sustain all the other services people want.

My advice to anyone who finds New Zealand roads inadequate is to stay off them and make them even safer for those of us who don't have a problem with them.

In any road accident investigation three factors are considered: the driver, the environment, and the vehicle.

Every vehicle on the road is supposed to be checked regularly. It is quite rare for a properly maintained vehicle that has a current Warrant of Fitness to be at fault in an accident.

The environment is continually being monitored and 'improved'. (sometimes I think some of the road maintenance is of dubious merit). While environment can be a factor in an accident, the prudent and capable driver is able to compensate for this.

What we don't have is a regular reassessment of driver competence. Apart from testing for additional classes of vehicles, I have not had my driving ability reassessed since getting my Passenger Car license at age 15.

I would be quite happy to have less vehicle testing in exchange for increased driver re-testing. Every driver should have to undergo reassessment at regular intervals to prove their competence and courtesy on the road. I don't think just having the ability to shove a vehicle in "D" and point it around a few suburban streets really cuts it. Driver testing should be undertaken in a manual transmission vehicle to ensure the driver is actively involved in the process. I get the impression that there are a lot of people who sit in the driver's seat but they are little more than the passenger with the steering wheel in front of them.

I think this testing would probably weed out about one third of the incompetent, inconsiderate drivers who shouldn't be there in the first place. Once they are gone the road would be a safer place. We could raise the speed limit and let those who possess the skill enjoy the experience.