Over the last week or so the NSW state government, police force and Australian media generally have put under the spotlight the tendency of drivers to “race” their motor vehicles on the streets. This current focus has been brought on by the recent tragic deaths of an elderly couple quietly returning home after a night out at a local venue. They were killed when their car was hit by 2 other vehicles travelling at high speed on a public road, allegedly “racing” each other.
There has since been much spoken and written about the incident and other similar incidents. Many people are asking why it is allowed to continue, what drives people to race their cars on the streets, and how it can be stopped.
It is my belief that such activities can never be wiped out. Man is, by nature, a competitive beast. Like the rest of the animal kingdom, we are genetically pre-disposed to strive to out-do our peers to get to the top of the heap and be seen as the strongest and quickest to ensure the “survival of the species”. This clearly extends to every facet of human endeavour. Therefore, it will be impossible to stop it without turning the human species into an evolutionary backwater that will stagnate and eventually fade away (we’re probably going to do ourselves in as a species anyway, but that’s a whole different story).
These activities are allowed to continue due to the NSW Government’s inability to maintain adequate police numbers actually on the roads being policeman. Premier Morris Iemma claims that they are providing additional police, however the problem with that is that his government is merely bringing police numbers back to levels from which they have gradually been allowed to decline. The government has not increased the numbers of police to keep pace with the growth of the population and many more need to be added to our police force. A more visible presence of police on the roads will go a long way to reducing traffic infringements in general.
More police on the roads is one piece of the puzzle to reducing this so-called “anti-social” behaviour of street racing. But more than just police on the roads is needed. The NSW Police Commissioner, Ken Moroney, has suggested seizing the vehicles of people convicted of street racing and crushing them into a small cube and putting the cube in the offenders front yard as a reminder. This idea simply isn’t workable. Mr Moroney cites overseas examples, such as in southern California, USA, and in England, of this practice. But it hasn’t stopped the street racers in either of those places, so clearly it doesn’t work as a way of stopping the practice.
It seems to me that the best way of combatting the situation and reducing the risk to the majority of road users lies in better driver training – something I’ve always been a strong advocate of. The NSW driver’s licencing regime for motor vehicle drivers is nothing short of a farce. There needs to be a mandatory requirement for all learner drivers to attend a car control course where they are able to learn, in a controlled environment away from public roads, what an out of control car feels like and how to avoid getting into those situations, or if they do find themselves in situation then they will know what to do and not freeze in panic. This needs to be extended to a refresher course at the time they graduate from their red “P” to their green “P”, and perhaps again when they graduate to their full licence. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for it to be a compulsory requirement that people must attend such a course on a regular basis, say every 5 years. These courses not only teach people the physical skills, but they also focus on the mental attitude of drivers which I think is a major factor.
There are those that say these courses are a bad thing as they give the trainees a false sense of security and actually increases the risk they will do something dangerous. To these people I say RUBBISH. From personal experience I can say that idea is a load of crap. I have watched family members go from being inexperienced panickers that simply froze if the car or traffic around them did something unexpected, to being confident drivers able to cope with pretty much any situation day to day driving can throw at them. I’ve seen the evidence first hand that these courses save lives.
As to reducing the incidence of street racing, might I suggest firstly that, as part of their punishment, anyone convicted of such an offence be forced to do community service in a hospital trauma ward helping to tend to those injured in motor vehicle accidents? Secondly, if the convicted driver is guilty of actually injuring other people, then that driver should be made to face the families of the victims and see the grief and torment their actions have caused.
And to those that ask why we have to have such powerful cars on the roads, the amount of power of a motor vehicle will make no difference (and do you wowsers realise that the more powerful vehicles are safer than the tinny gutless offerings you favour, because of the features built in to cope with the increased power?). Human beings will pit themselves against their fellow human beings at any opportunity – we can’t help it, it’s our destiny….