I’m not going to talk about the obvious things which cause most of the deaths and serious injuries on our roads namely driving whilst impaired (by alcohol, drugs or fatigue) driving while distracted (e.g. texting) or deliberate risk taking such as inappropriate speed and overtaking when unsafe etc. All I can say is don’t do those things and do your very best to avoid the idiots doing so.
Which brings me to my point, let’s remember to practise Courtesy, Patience and Roadcraft in order to stay as safe as possible and enjoy our time on the roads.
Courtesy and Patience
In a recent article in the Royalauto (RACV members’ magazine) a paramedic pointed out the futility and dangers associated with “driving angry”. Think about it, driving while angry doesn’t help in any way and can actually make your driving more dangerous because of the rash actions and decisions you may take. Yes, people do the wrong thing and you may well feel like getting angry and “showing him” (or her) but this will probably just lead to you taking a potentially dangerous action.
We all make mistakes on the roads at times (well I certainly do) so there is no point in getting worked up about it.
If someone’s actions are really dangerous, pull over and take some notes and report it. Take a deep breath and don’t add to the danger. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it. If someone shows you a particular courtesy, acknowledge it. It will make you feel better and calmer and behave more safely. I’m not going to pretend I haven’t ever driven angry after being cut off or whatever but it didn’t make me safer.
Way back in the 70s when the authorities and media first started recognising the need to address the trauma occurring on our roads they came up with a slogan “Courtesy is Catching”. Laws addressing drink (and recently drug) driving have improved greatly since, cars have gotten much safer and (despite all the hysteria about revenue-raising) speed cameras have been shown to be effective in reducing road trauma.
I believe it is now time to revisit that “Courtesy is Catching” philosophy as people now seem to be too insistent on claiming their “rights” rather than showing courtesy and patience on the roads.
How often do you see a person speed up when approaching a roundabout to claim a mistaken belief in right of way over someone on their left? We have no rights on the roads, just obligations and the primary one is to drive or ride carefully (it is against the law to drive carelessly or dangerously) and safely.
People are not required to drive at the speed limit and at times doing the speed limit can be dangerous. Even though they can be frustrating, it is dangerous to “tailgate” a person you feel should be driving faster, yet many people do and that is simply not acceptable.
In New Zealand there are laws and signs requiring slower drivers to take action to allow others to overtake. It seems to work well and should be practised here.
I have lost count of the number of times I have followed people along winding roads well below the speed limit who ignore “slow vehicle turnout” bays or speed up to the speed limit when they reach an overtaking lane or a straight road thus frustrating law abiding and safe drivers behind them. It is a simple matter of roadcraft and courtesy to be aware of surrounding traffic and simply ease up a bit when reaching a straight to allow others to overtake safely and thus avoid provoking road rage or angst.
In my opinion, this is an area the safety authorities need to provide more publicity and education about as there is clear room for improvement in the conduct of many road users.
Branch or Group Rides
Similarly, if in a group ride and you have others “all over your rear”, don’t get stressed or anxious. Simply ease over to the left when you reach a straight and let them pass – you’ll both be much safer and able to enjoy the ride more.
Also, if you are in a group ride and being held up by a slower rider, be patient and only overtake when it is both safe and legal to do so, not on a tight bend when the other rider will probably be concentrating on his or her manoeuvre rather than thinking about you wanting to get past. Be considerate, don’t give them a fright, create a danger and/or put them off enjoying their activities with the Ulysses Club.
Road markings at “merge” situations are frequently inconsistent and often place ridiculous obligations on the road users in the left lane who have to “give way” when changing lanes across a broken line. I recommend using courtesy and allowing people to “merge” safely rather than insisting upon a mythical “right of way”.
The list of examples could go on and on, but I contend that practising courtesy, patience and roadcraft will make the journey both safer and more enjoyable.
I am not an apologist for all the authorities are doing at present. Over the past 6 years the number of people being injured or killed on the roads has been rising with a significant spike in 2016. Yes, the number of road users is increasing and congestion is getting worse, but I contend that the current fixation on ever reducing speed limits and draconian targeting of minor infractions of ever lower speed limits is not working as (in my opinion) minor level speeding is not the problem.
Practising “CP&R” (especially towards fellow members) may well help reduce trauma and enhance safety and enjoyment. As I try to remember to say at the end of ride briefings, “Be courteous to each other and let's arrive home with ourselves, our licences and our bikes intact.”