Plenty of ignition but not enough cognition

MARK Hamlin’s letter (NDL, November 13) regarding drivers’ roundabout habits is spot-on, but doesn’t go near enough to the crux of the matter – driver training and the woeful lack of it in our wide, brown land.

Roundabout rules have always been: give way to whoever is in the roundabout, not to whoever is about to come into it on your right.

You have always had to indicate as you exit a roundabout. I do it – I rarely see anyone else do it.

Which brings me to the general lack of indicator usage these days. 

You must indicate as you leave the kerb; you also have to indicate when changing lanes, which includes merging into another lane. But hardly anyone does it. Some people don’t even indicate to turn left or right.

Mark is right – just think: it really is all too easy. Unfortunately, that’s the problem: the vast majority of drivers don’t think, because they don’t know any better. They’re not educated about road safety. 

But they think they have a God-given right to be behind the wheel.

Since I moved to Tamworth, I have been appalled at the biggest bunch of aggressive, reckless, inconsiderate, tailgating numbskull urgers I have ever seen in my life – who don’t want to sit on 60km/h, treat roundabouts like they don’t even exist, don’t indicate, won’t let you merge and hesitate as they come out of a side street but, as you draw closer, pull out in front of you anyway.

I was knocked off my Ducati in a roundabout mid-year by a four-wheel- drive that didn’t see me.

I remember thinking: “Gee, that four-wheel-drive is coming in fast. I don’t think it’s going to stop.” It didn’t – and, if I hadn’t taken avoidance action and broadsided it, I would have gone right under the front of 1.5 to two tonnes of gorgeous LandCruiser. I certainly would not have been able to limp away like I did.

Not that I’m angry about it – what’s the point? But I use it to illustrate how bad driver habits are in Tamworth. Everyone is always rushing. People don’t even slow down for roundabouts.

They’re mindless. Plenty of ignition, but no cognition.

Here’s another example. I pulled up to the intersection of Porcupine Ln to turn left onto the New England Highway (a very dangerous intersection) on my Ducati – and the car following me screamed up on my left and turned left, a totally illegal manoeuvre. He wouldn’t have done it to a car, as there wouldn’t have been enough room.

There is no patience. We live in the country, in a less stressful environment (this is one of the reasons we live here, isn’t it?), but people drive like maniacs.

Let’s introduce driver training, which people must pass before they get their licence.

Let’s at least make it mandatory for car drivers to ride a motorcycle in a testing-ground situation before they’re allowed to go for their driver’s licence – so they can see how the other half lives.

Why do motorcyclists have to do mandatory rider training and not car drivers? Because it’s politically unpalatable to foist mandatory driver training onto the majority of the electorate – there’d be such a hue and cry it would be shouted down.

I remember, when I was assistant editor of Two Wheels magazine (January 1990-94), the many letters we’d receive on the subject – and the huge piss-off created by lights-on legislation (headlights hardwired to come on when you turned on the ignition).

Bike riders are a soft target, because there are fewer of us than car drivers.

I did two lots of rider training for a couple of stories.

(I’ve had my motorcycle licence since I was 16, well before mandatory rider training.)

Until I did that rider training, I had no idea you needed to have a three-second gap between you and the vehicle in front, no matter which speed you were doing, in order to give you ample braking room.

I used to tailgate in my old XY Falcon in blissful ignorance. I shudder to think of it now.

All you have to do is wait for the vehicle in front to go past a stationary object and count to three – and by the time you reach three you should be going past that same object.

Simple! Voila! Lightbulbs on!

Cognition, peeps.

Buffer zones (go to the left when a vehicle is coming towards you, or as you near the crest of a hill; go to the middle of the lane when there’s an oncoming car and someone’s waiting at the left on a T-intersection to turn onto the main road) is another invaluable piece of knowledge.

Those two bits of information – the three-second gap and buffer zones – are probably the most important pieces of information which would improve drivers’ skills.

They might even come in handy for the bloke in the grey Audi who tailgated me down Darling St, coming down from the TAFE, veering sharply left and right, at 8.45am last Wednesday.

“Geez, he’s cute,” I noticed as I watched his useless antics and flustered demeanour in my rear-vision mirror.

As a dear friend of my father’s who used to be a salesman at Spooner Motorcycles in Brookvale said to my dad: “You can’t put brains in monuments.” Right-on, Stacky.

But education and training is the key to unlocking those brains and making them cogitate.




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