As on-the-spot fines come in for tailgating and middle lane hogging, commentators are asking whether this will make Britain’s drivers safer. Well, that depends on your school of thought; many people consider that an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points will make drivers think long and hard about their manners whilst behind the wheel. Others however suggest that our poor driving skills are ingrained into our personalities and therefore, unless there is a “jam sandwich” (1970’s slang for a police car) in your rear-view mirror, we will continue to drive as we always have done, aggressively.
These new fines are excellent for those who find it very difficult to keep calm behind the wheel when, for example, the car in the middle lane isn’t overtaking and is only travelling at 65 mph. However, I am dubious as to whether the threat of a £100 fine and three penalty points will make the roads any safer.
It is worth a note that statistics* show that 20% of all road accidents where someone is killed or seriously injured involved young car drivers. Perhaps we should be focussing on how we teach our young drivers as opposed to the reactive method of penalising the bad behaviour. Currently, there is no minimum period or minimum requirements for a learner driver and a provisional licence holder can, if they are skilled enough, pass the theory test and then jump straight into a car and take a practical test. Of course, it would be highly unlikely that they would pass, however it is not impossible. In the eyes of the law that person is now a fit and competent driver but I wonder if the public would agree?
Perhaps there should be the introduction of a minimum number of “learning hours” and topics to be addressed and completed, almost like coursework, in order to ensure that all aspects of driving have been covered. It is worth considering that perhaps the practical test should be taken over more than one hour/day. A split test could be considered, which will allow the learner driver and the examiner the opportunity to test a drivers ability on more than one occasion in a certain period of time. For example, the drivers practical test could consist of two hour long tests, taken within a four week period.
Once the practical test has been passed we should consider a period of restrictions
which will allow the new driver to become accustomed to driving alone and with passengers before they receive their full licence. Although it may be a long time ago, I’m sure we can all remember the fear of getting into your car for the first time after passing your test, you could have been alone and perhaps facing an unfamiliar route. Then what about the fear you felt the first time you drove in the dark, on a motorway or with a car full of passengers? No-one supervises or teaches you how to deal with those situations in the big bad world. Perhaps restrictions could include only driving at night or on a motorway when accompanied by an experienced driver.
So, for now then, perhaps fines deal in some part with the problem but possibly changing our attitudes towards the driving test is a more satisfactory long-term solution.
*figures from the Department for Transport