My recent venture through Europe highlighted several things that Australia seriously lacks when it comes to driving.
Firstly. The cost of owning a car and getting a license in Australia is very cheap in comparison to our European neighbours. In Holland for example, the public must only complete driving lessons with qualified instructors – not with a parent who has probably learnt a myriad of bad habits over the years.
Upon completing the scheduled number of hours with a driving instructor, a learner must then go through a rigorous driving test – again, unlike Australia. I recall my driving test was a 15 minute job. Part of the test included a point-to-point reverse – which I’m certain an ape of average IQ could complete with both eyes closed. To think that anybody could possibly fail a driving test in Australia truly shocks me and makes me wonder why they are allowed to hold a license.
Secondly. The mentality of drivers on our roads is beyond belief. Many drivers share the belief that sticking exactly to the speed limit is both safe for them and all drivers around them. In Australia, if you approach a driver sitting in the right hand lane, driving under the speed limit, they instantly get defensive and won’t move no matter what you try – this kind of mentality is unheard of in Europe.
The other thing that totally plagues Australian drivers is hidden speed cameras. Around Australia - in Victoria especially - the public is too scared to drive watching the road because of the risk of going several kilometers/hour over the speed limit - resulting in a fine from well positioned cash-cameras. Drivers are far too paranoid about their speed, so much so that they don't bother watching the road in front of them. This results in inattentive driving, which is not only dangerous for the driver, but the people around them.
Our trip to Italy had us drive on many Autostrades. The Autostrades were limited to 130km/h. Take a guess how many people were actually doing 130km/h? You guessed it – not many. The majority of the drivers were sitting on a casual 150km/h, while the rest were happy to cruise past at 200km/h. In Australia, this would be seen as deadly. Government officials would be dumbfounded at how incredibly unsafe this practice is. Now take a guess how many car accidents we saw on the motorways during our stint in several European countries? 0. None. Zilch.
Why were there no car accidents? Because drivers don’t have an unfounded sense of pride when it comes to other drivers. There was rarely anybody who was in the left hand lane for longer than the time needed to overtake. The drivers are also trained to look ahead of traffic and spot any problems that are about to arise.
Arriving back in Australia was fantastic in many ways – after all, it is the best country in the world. But one thing that continues to amaze me is how bad Australia is when it comes to driving. It shocks me to think how many accidents are caused in Australia due to uneducated drivers that wholeheartedly believe that driving is a simple task that anyone can and should do.
I guess I’ll just have to bite my tongue – the Government seems to be far too focussed on ripping every last penny out of driver’s pockets via speed camera fines, opposed to actually thinking about ways to properly train drivers before they are handed a deadly piece of machinery which can potentially wipe out a family in a heartbeat.
- Paul Maric