You’ll have probably seen on the news or in the paper that the man who knocked down and killed Patricia Fraser while she was on her bike was given a sentence of a 10-month licence suspension and 175 hours community service. Like readers who contacted us, I was pretty unhappy about this. I mean, what’s the difference between accidentally killing someone with a car and accidentally killing someone with a gun? They’re still dead, and it’s still your fault even if you were just being a bit careless and you really didn’t mean to do it. But before we cue the howls of outrage, let’s think about why the judge might have handed down such a light sentence.
We have bad driving skills. We all know this. The most minimal training is required in order to get a car licence – in fact if you have no training at all, if you’ve just had a few blatts around the sheep paddock or whatever, you can get out there and give it a crack. You probably won’t pass, but that’s not my point. My point is that no formal instruction is required, and most of us get the informal kind from mum or dad who, let’s face it, aren’t that great themselves.
So what does this say? It says to me that we don’t place much value on our own safety, or that of the other people in our car and on the road. If you think about how we treat guns there’s a whole raft of safety-based seriousness. Licencing, gun registration, separate lockups for the weapon and the ammunition etc etc etc. Because everyone knows that guns are dangerous.
I bet you anything that more people – proportionately as well as numerically – are killed/maimed/wounded by people driving cars than by people holding guns. I have no idea what the actual figures are but I’m willing to put the farm on it. We’re just bloody awful drivers. Nevertheless, every time there’s a road accident we shake our heads and perhaps mutter sombrely about New Zealanders’ terrible driving.
And we’re bad drivers regardless of whether we ride bikes or not. If you ride a bike you’re probably a slightly more careful driver than most, thanks to your having been on the receiving end of the scary. But as I’ve said before, just because you’re better, doesn’t actually mean you’re any good. Our baseline is crap. We don’t take this stuff seriously, even if we act like we think we do. So is it any wonder that our courts hand down light sentences?
My question for you is – what are you doing about it?
I challenge you to front up and take an advanced driving skills course. “Oh… “I hear you say, “but I’m OK. I’m a pretty good driver.” But nothing, mate. You’re really not. Or is it that, somehow, out of all the bad drivers in the country, you just happen to be the lonely shining light in the darkness? Please…
Take some responsibility. Put your money where your mouth is. Go on.
Image credit: Simon Carey