Why are they unsafe?
I personally think that the reason our roads are getting more dangerous is that children are losing their road awareness and becoming detached from reality. Because of the perceived danger on the road they arenít allowed to walk or cycle, so their only experience of road use is as a passenger. In many cars now the children donít even look out of the window at their surroundings, theyíre too busy watching the in-car DVD.
Children do have another type of road use that they often experience, and that is computer games, in fact they usually have more skill than me in this area! The unfortunate thing with this though is that computer games have a different set of rules to real life, being good on the computer amounts to nothing out on the road. One of the main things is that there isnít a reset button.
At the age of 17 these children suddenly jump from the back seat of the car into the drivers seat. They have no road awareness at all as they have been distanced from it up until that point. They donít just have to learn about car control, they have to learn all the road signs, how to negotiate junctions and more. Much more.
As for me, I cycled everywhere. When I was in a car I was encouraged to look out of the window. If something happened outside of the car then we talked about it. If we went out for a drive I sometimes made a note of the route we took so that I could learn my local roads (50 mile radius from home). I paid attention.
Through this I gained road sense and road awareness. I developed that 6th sense that comes in so handy to keep motorists safe. That awareness that another vehicle on the road is about to make an unexpected manoeuvre without warning, there is a subtle clue but itís something that only your 6th sense can spot and alert you.
At the age of 17 the only thing I had to learn was car control. Most of the theory I had already gained from talking about driving. Most of my road awareness had already developed. That meant that I had less to learn, and resulted in safer and easier driving. I passed my test first time after just 10 lessons. The last few lessons werenít really needed, I was just biding time waiting for the test date to arrive.
The net result is that thanks to my cycling proficiency at junior school and then cycling everywhere I have become a safe driver and motorcyclist.
Because of this I think the way forward for road safety is to re-sensitise the car, making the occupants more aware of their surroundings rather than the games and films theyíve brought on board. We need to rekindle the interest in driving safe road use. We need to stop thinking about the car journey just as a way of getting somewhere, the journey needs to become interesting in itself. Driving computer games need to become more lifelike and aimed more at safety than thrills.
But above all we need to be walking or cycling much more. If itís only a short journey then get on your bike rather than in the car. Canít drive? Then cycle rather than hitch a lift. Taking your children to school? Donít put them in the car, put them on their bikes and teach them how to ride safely on the road. Youíre not only improving their health, youíre educating them into being safe, for their benefit as well as the benefit of all society once theyíve obtained their driving licence.
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