Thursday, August 6, 2009

Far too many of us drive no better than a 7-year-old

By Paul Berton - Editorial, London Free Press

Is it a tool, a toy or a weapon? Is it a bathroom, a living room, a multi-media room?

Or is it a vehicle? One specifically designed to get you from Point A to Point B as safely as possible?

Believe it or not, the question is relevant given the mind-boggling behaviour of "drivers" in our car-obsessed society.

The incidents of dangerous and careless driving are too numerous to quantify. The amount of speeding drivers is increasing. The number of motorists who try to multi-task behind the wheel -- making phone calls, reading documents, combing hair, applying makeup, drinking coffee, eating hamburgers -- is endless.

The number of deaths on our roads is unacceptable.

And the number of stories that challenge even common sense is astounding.

Most recently, a YouTube video has surfaced showing a seven-year-old perched precariously on the edge of the driver's seat of an SUV, so he can reach the pedals. As the car he is "driving" travels at speeds of up to 70 km/h, his mother, unbuckled with a toddler on her lap, looks on nervously from the back seat, while the boy's "proud" father videotapes it from the front passenger seat.

Not surprisingly, the provincial police are investigating, but the message already from Quebec road and safety officials is that parents are encouraging bad driving habits among young people.

There are endless examples of children years away from the legal driving age getting behind the wheel of various vehicles, for various reasons, but that's only the beginning.

Once the rest of us get "certified" for the legal care and control of a motor vehicle, we believe we have "licences" to drive badly, aggressively, thoughtlessly, carelessly, dangerously, and generally exhibit the kind of behaviour we might not expect from even a seven-year-old.

Imagine being a pedestrian or a cyclist on the road where the seven-year-old was driving. Imagine walking your dog or accompanying a child across a crosswalk and spying this boy behind the wheel.

Now imagine that too often this is the kind of mentality behind the wheel in the lane next to you on the freeway or a busy downtown street, or approaching you on a rural road. Except it's not a dream; too often it's reality.

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