Drive to the conditions – it’s not hard

Winter is here and that means we can expect more rain, more fog and even ice on the roads, so why can’t we all drive to the conditions?

MOST PEOPLE WILL TELL YOU how much they love the pitter-patter of rain drops on a tin roof … some will even tell you that it helps them drift off to sleep. And, after a wet Monday morning run into the office (a drive of exactly 100km) I can tell you that more than one or two people must have nodded off in their cars this morning listening to the rain on their car roof.

There were two very decent-looking shunts on the way in this morning; one was on a well-lit, arrow-straight section of road while the other was on a long bend heading up a hill. Both collisions involved more than one car.

Yes, the road was slippery but then we should expect that when we’re driving in the rain. So, why is it that when the rain starts to fall, or the fog begins to close in and reduce visibility, that the majority of road users go to pieces. They forget to turn on their lights when it’s either raining or foggy (actually, I think it’s a good idea to drive with them on all the time). These people drive along as if they’re in a bubble, and quite often it’s a tail-gating, no-lights-on, speeding bubble.

Indeed, I’ve seen people driving along the highway eating their breakfast, applying make-up, tying a neck tie, checking their FacePlusInstaTwitter status, basically anything other than what they’re meant to be doing at that time, and that is, driving. Add rain or fog and this lack of concentration nearly always ends in disaster. And the authorities aren’t really doing anything about it.

So, what’s to be done? Well, sadly not that much, as far as I can tell. See, a moron with no regard for either mine or your safety will always be the ticking time bomb on the road. Indeed, there’s one who lives across the road from my house. The guy’s a dead-set idiot, he even has a sign hanging in the window of his car that says, ‘caution: this car is frequently sideways’. And it isn’t a joke. He is frequently sideways; during the day and at night time too, regardless of the weather or how much traffic there is.

Now, short of taking away his car and banning this buffoon from driving for life there’s precious little the police can do. Hang on; please excuse me for a moment while I pen a short note to my local constabulary.

Okay, there’s always going to be one or two rotten apples in the barrel, but the rest of us can at least worry about what we do when we’re on the road. And we can start by A) keeping our cars in perfect running order, B) eating breakfast at home in the morning, or waiting until we get to work, C) driving within your own ability (and there are plenty of course you can attend to find where your talent behind the wheel begins and ends), and D) driving to the prevailing conditions.

And the authorities can help here too. Instead of bombarding us with messages about the time it takes to slowdown from this or that speed, they should be concentrating on creating a better driving environment. See, the modern motor car is a much safer beast than one from the 1970s, indeed, the car you buy today is likely to be a lot safer than one from even five years ago.

So instead of just trying to frighten us into submission, the authorities should be getting tougher on those who put others at risk. That means, when the road conditions (on the highways and motorways) are right the speed limits should be higher, say, 130km/h. And when they’re not – when there’s heavy traffic, or fog, or it’s raining, the speed limit should be reduced, and this could be policed by, well, the police and cameras mounted on overhead gantries.

Punishments for inattentive driving should be more severe, and that can cover everything from using your phone when you’re driving, to not having your lights turned on when it’s raining, or foggy.

The above motorway control method works in Germany, so why not here. When the road is clear and traffic is light you can get where you need to quickly. And when they’re not, you’ve got to do as you’re told or be punished, and punished hard.

It’s all very simple stuff, but it seems there are still people using the road that don’t think about others and don’t drive to the conditions; it’s as if they think they’re no longer responsible, and that the only person that really matters is them. Sad.

And my reason for this rant is a two-pronged selfish one. I’ve got an incredibly long drive to and from work each day and even the slightest hold-up can mean I won’t get home in time to see the kids before they go to bed. But there’s more to it than that, see, I don’t want to have to crawl past another row of emergency services vehicles dragging someone out of a mangled wreck.

So, as winter takes hold and the days become shorter and the weather wetter, foggier and icier let’s all take a little more car on the roads, drive to the conditions, and remember, we’re all in this together. What do you think?

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7 years ago

I live in the Adelaide Hills and the speed limits on the South-Eastern freeway are controlled electronically to try to ensure we don’t play bumper-cars on the way down the hill. Some tool will still speedily splash down the inside lane before – kel surprise – they hurriedly come nose to arse with a 26-pallet B-double and then wonder why no-one wants to be friends and let them back in.
Anyway, my real question is this – I’ve always been under the misapprehension that it’s illegal to use your wipers without having your lights on. Common sense, I reckon. But apparently not. Are the laws different in the eastern states??

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober