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by James Ward

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I’ve got a plan to help with our climbing road toll.

A brave plan, perhaps, but they say you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and I do love an omelette.

If you spend any time on the roads here in Australia, particularly in our capital cities, I think you’ll agree that driving behaviour in general has become worse over the past few years.

I’m going to push it out a bit further and suggest that, as Australians, we are among the worst drivers in the world.

We are rude, selfish and aggressive. But, most importantly, we are becoming oblivious to what is going on around us. Dangerously so.

Take a look at the car in front next time you are on the road. Watch how many times they check their mirrors and subconsciously acknowledge your presence. I’m going to suggest it won’t be often.

This bubble-of-self attitude tends to ignore anything and everything outside the car, under the guise that doing nothing wrong means you are doing everything right.

As Alborz noted recently, we have a plague of right-lane sitters who assume that travelling at a speed either on, or under the limit makes them some kind of untouchable traffic deity, regardless of other laws or traffic conditions.

Sure, we know there are people who do things like this to antagonise other drivers, but I’d wager the real reason is much simpler.

People are just not paying any attention to what is going on around them.

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Road safety governance has plenty of messaging about speeding and driving while intoxicated, but I’m yet to see any snappy, rhyming marketing slogans about ‘just pay attention to what you are doing’.

And where you can measure speed with a laser, or intoxication with a breath or blood analysis, you can’t measure inattentiveness with a roadside device.

Or can you?

We need green-light cameras.

Yep. A camera that arms on a green light rather than a red one (well, technically it would handle both).

A camera that will take a photo and issue a fine if you don’t proceed on a green light in a timely manner. A camera that will punish you for playing with Facebook or fiddling with the radio or just staring off vacantly into the distance. A camera that knows if you aren’t paying attention.

It wouldn’t need a massive rollout either. Surely a quick software and calibration update to our Orwellian network of red-light cameras could make this a simple and cost-effective way to put people back on their game.

Safety margin timing could be accommodated, and obviously the camera can tell if there is a blocked intersection, red-light runner or emergency vehicle involved. As, really, they are the exception to the rule.

Speaking of emergency vehicles, you could fit a similar reporting device to the front of all fire engines and ambulances that will issue a fine if you don’t get out of the way quickly when they are coming up behind you.

Put simply, paying attention while driving is critical all the time. Show that you are concentrating and your life will be fine-free. Disconnect from your engagement with the task at hand and pay a penalty.

Don’t like it? Don’t drive.

Just think of the upside.

Drivers paying more attention means less accidents, better traffic flow, and less road rage. You’ll get to where you need to be swifter, and more relaxed, and you’ll become a better driver in the process.

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Plus, looking around while you drive, making sure you are reading the road, other drivers and traffic conditions, means you tend to see more interesting things. A Lancia Delta was traveling the opposite way on the freeway last week – you don’t see them every day.

And while this is a little bit tongue-in-cheek (just a little – elect me to a position of power at your peril!), my point is clear.

I, you, we need to treat driving as a risky endeavour and concentrate accordingly. It can still be relaxing, and can always be enjoyable, but every time you step into a car, bring your A-game.

If you don’t think you’ve got the mental space to concentrate with 150kJ of kinetic energy surrounding you, then perhaps it’s a good day for a walk.

And if you are behind the wheel, then pay attention. Green means go… or else!

 




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