Daily Archives: January 2, 2009

Life on our Roads

Over the past few days Steph wrote about the perils of drinking and driving. Alas the total number of road deaths in the south of Ireland for 2008 has now reached 276. All the TV and newspaper advertising is geared towards not drinking if you are going to drive a car.

Yesterday the Gardaí named three teenagers killed in a road crash in Tipperary on New Years Eve. They were young men aged 14, 16 and 17 all from the County. Two others, a 15-year-old boy and a 16 year-old-girl, were injured. They remain in a serious condition in hospital in Limerick. The five teenagers were travelling in a car at around 7.30pm near Nenagh. Gardaí said the crash happened when the car left the road, mounted a ditch and hit a tree.  The report did not say who the driver was. The oldest of the group was 17 years old and that is the legal age to learn to drive. This all made me think…..

Most young learner drivers practice in small low powered cars. They are, or should be accompanied by a qualified driver. The process involves learning the rules of the road, how to read road signs, speed limits and using the manual controls of the vehicle. So you learn how to signal, Parallel Park, reverse and three point turns and most important how to make an emergency stop. All this is very laudable and grand. Even when the person sits the test there are only two people in the car – the tester and the testee.

At no point that I am aware of, does the Highway Code cover driving a car full of giggling passengers. Does it tell you how the extra weight of passengers in the back seats or a heavy load in the boot can affect how a car moves when brakes are applied or when going around a bend? I think that part of the learning process should take place in a simulator that covers all weather and load conditions. Pilots use these type of simulators as part of their training so why not road drivers. Are there not more road deaths world wide than aircraft fatalities?

Here in Northern Ireland once a person has passed a written test and a practical one they graduate from ‘L’ plates to ‘R’ plates for six months. The ‘R’ is for restricted driving. With ‘R’ plates the driver may drive unaccompanied but must not exceed 45 miles per hour on any road. It may not prevent all deaths but it does help.