Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: When "common sense" isn't

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  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Lilith __,

    young drivers who have just graduated to their restricted licence are in the most danger. These are the people who have just passed all their tests.

    No, they haven’t passed all their tests. They’ve passed two of three, one of which was theory, and they’ve still got 12-18 months before they get to the exit test – which has roughly a 40% failure rate for first-time takers. They’re far from being out the final gate.

    Why do I have something against older drivers? Because for all the harping on about experience, being experienced does zero to make you well-behaved. If you don’t learn the good behaviours when you’re learning to drive it takes a very concerted effort in later life to change those ingrained things that are wrong, assuming you even know that they’re wrong and can be bothered changing. It was so easy to get a licence for so very long that there are literally millions of drivers in this country whose sum level of driver behaviour testing was that they managed to behave themselves for 15 minutes while a retired traffic cop was in the passenger seat.

    The changes to testing are a reflection that young people lack experience, not a cause. They’re an attempt to force them to demonstrate good behaviour and sound judgement before they get permission to drive without supervision. The restricted licence is the most dangerous because the driver is out on their own, with only their own experiences between them and calamity. When they’ve got a supervisor and are on their learner licence it’s the combined observational powers and experience that makes it the safest period of a driver’s time behind the wheel.

    Not crashing doesn’t mean that you indicate, don’t tailgate, don’t cut people off, and generally follow all the niceties of traffic law. Experience protects ill-behaved drivers from themselves.

    You want evidence, Ben? I find myself being tailgated more by late-model cars, and a lot of the worst failure to use indicators is also by late-model cars. Young drivers mostly can’t afford to own such things, and before you go off down the “it’s the parents’ car” track, I don’t think that could reasonably account for all the bad behaviour. Are young drivers perfect? Of course they’re not, but before they can start driving unsupervised they at least have to spend a longer period of time having their driving behaviour judged critically than most of those of us who’re aged over 30 ever did.

    As for your supposedly saintly older drivers, it’s those who’re middle-aged who’re predominately represented in DUI convictions.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to BenWilson,

    If I don’t have a license, then my freedom of movement by driving a vehicle will be immediately curtailed. Parliament will back them up.

    The Courts will back them up. Parliament gave them the power to curtail your movement in the first place.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    there are literally millions of drivers in this country whose sum level of driver behaviour testing was that they managed to behave themselves for 15 minutes while a retired traffic cop was in the passenger seat.

    "literally millions"?
    "driver behaviour testing"??
    "retired traffic cop"???

    I got my licence in 1970 and it was very easy in those days, but the traffic cop was not retired when he took me for the test (although I will concede that he would be by now).

    Basically, Matthew, your argument boils down to "driving licence testing standards have improved over time" which is kinda self-evident and no-one is trying to contradict you on that. However, some of your hyper-bollocks statements betray your argument.

    Happy cycling!

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Stewart,

    “driving licence testing standards have improved over time”

    Over the last decade, pretty much. Before that, it was a joke. For my generation it was pass a 30-question multiple-guess scratch quiz (only 20 possible layouts, which could all be bought from BP and then handed around your friends with twink to hide the scratched panels) to get your learner, wait six months, do a drive of somewhere less than 15 minutes to get your restricted (proving that you could follow the speed limit, indicate, and hopefully carry out at least one of a hill start, a parallel park, and a three-point-turn), wait 9-18 months and get your full. Not much before that came into play it wasn’t even that hard, and as you’ve observed it was much easier still in the not-too-distant past. And it was a retired traffic cop for me. By the time I was getting my licence, there was no such thing as a traffic cop.

    As for literally millions, yes, literally millions. Somewhere north of three million people in this country (ETA: 3.2m in 2010) hold a driver’s licence, and the vast majority got them less recently than within the last 10 years.

    None of you are disagreeing with me that testing has got better, but you’re all mortally offended that I’m daring to point out that all of the people who went through the earlier variations of testing could get away with being very average drivers at the time in terms of behaviour and have since been largely ignored. How dare I point out something that I thought was a self-evident fact: if you didn’t have to learn proper behaviour in order to get your licence, and didn’t get taught properly, you likely carry on those bad behaviours to this day. Most people in this country learn to drive from family and friends, and that’s been the case since forever. That means they learn the bad habits of their instructors, and pass on those bad habits to those they instruct. Unless the testing is sufficient to catch and penalise those bad habits, the bad habits remain. It’s not rocket science.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Matthew, you are saying that the people who crash most (young ppl) are actually the best drivers? And that older drivers behave badly on the road but magically don't crash?

    You have worked up a nice theory that has no actual connection with reality.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3468 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Now we're "all mortally offended"? Jeez, you don't half like the deep end! You should try not to be so touchy.

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Lilith __,

    FFS. Best and best-behaved are not the same thing. This whole discussion came about through discourse about drivers who don't share the road nicely with others. Somehow that has now become about crash statistics and whether older drivers are better at sharing the road than young drivers purely because they crash less on a per-capita basis.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    I think possibly what’s happening is that your underlying “don’t worry, the oldies are going to die and that will be awesome for cyclists!” implication is a little… eugenicist for our tastes. ;)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3661 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Stewart,

    Your reactions are pretty far out there, Stewart. Mortally offended seemed an appropriate phrase. You've all got hung up on who crashes more, using that as a yardstick for who's better at being courteous and following conventions such as proper use of indicators. Your response to my cornflake pack quip said a lot about being touchy, even though you admit that it was incredibly easy for you to get your licence.
    I fall into the same group of drivers who underwent negligible testing, if you hadn't been paying attention. I'm only an argument from exception because I then got trained to get a class 2 driver's licence through the Fire Service and got hammered on the finer points by someone who taught people how to drive fire appliances as urgent traffic. That, plus some of the serious ignorance about traffic law that I encountered when marking the theory section of driver competitions, just confirmed for me that what passed for testing when I was a teenager wasn't anything close to sufficient to ensure I was actually good about sharing the road and letting others know what I was doing.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    This whole discussion came about through discourse about drivers who don’t share the road nicely with others.

    No, it came about because someone made something up that sounded good to him but which he had no evidence for.
    Which is what you have been doing this whole thread.
    If you've got some evidence, give it.
    Your own "common sense" is not evidence, that's THE WHOLE POINT HERE.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3468 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Danielle,

    I'll die too, one day. My point is that there's a huge focus on getting new drivers ready to be drivers, including a significant increase in the focus on their adherence to "polite" driving behaviour, but it's going to be decades before everyone who wasn't subjected to the same level of scrutiny is off the roads. And until that happens, the bad attitudes and impolite behaviour will continue. If people are taking that as some kind of a wish for "the oldies" to hurry up and die, that's their lookout.

    I've advocated in this forum more than once for mandatory theory retesting with every licence renewal as a way of ensuring that all those who went through earlier schemes actually know the rules. I'd like it even better if there was a practical test with every renewal, but then people start bleating about costs and about practicalities.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I disagree with the normal meaning attributed to that phrase. It’s a purely voluntary payment made in exchange for rule-breaking. You could campaign for the law to be changed, you could obey the law, or you could pay the fine. All are acceptable, and to suggest that enforcement is purely about raising revenue is IMO misleading.

    Especially given that the police don't keep the revenue that they collect.

    Wrongo.
    Age-related and medical certification AND driving tests have been around for quite a long time here in ANZ.

    The age-related on road safety test is only if recommended by your doctor when you do your medical. See here. Also note that you just have to get 80% to pass it - that seems low!

    Because for all the harping on about experience, being experienced does zero to make you well-behaved.

    I haven't looked for any evidence relating to driving, but I know that in sports coaching, training time improves young sportspeople over game time by ridiculous factors - it's ice hockey it's estimated to be between 10x and 30x times as fast in improving your skills. I presume you'd see similar impacts in a skill like driving - people might drive for 20 years and never use their rear vision mirror, but a one hour driving lesson might fix that for them for life.

    Of course driving experience will help - you'll encounter things that make you change your driving, you'll get better with the car. But if you're not doing something at all in your driving, driving hundreds or thousands of hours might mean that you're still not doing it.

    I do find it strange that we have to renew our licences (and get a simple eye test at the time), but we never have to be re-tested. Even a 20 year retest would help catch people who had fallen behind new driver requirements.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6205 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    Right, evidence.

    This one where a significant association between poor parental driving habits and the driving habits of their newly-licensed adolescents was observed.

    The reports on how much stricter testing has become are numerous, but a couple are here and here. Academic research on the immediate and on-going effect that the introduction of the graduated driver licensing scheme had on crash rates amongst young drivers compared to prior is here.

    It’s still too soon to tell what effect the latest changes have had, but when failing to check mirrors consistently before changing lanes (second link in paragraph above) will see you fail, that’s a huge jump from what’s been tested previously. And making that a habit that’s sufficiently ingrained to survive a 45-minute-long test means it’s probably a habit that will be with the driver for life. Also comment from a driving instructor here that he’s seen people come for professional tuition after three fails at the new restricted test, “By then it’s quite hard to get rid of bad habits they’ve picked up, like driving with one hand.”

    I haven’t just made this shit up. I’ve paid attention to years of debates about how to try and reduce our youth road toll.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Maz,

    No Maz, no sentimental claptrap, no defensiveness, no desire to stop any necessary change. Just asking some, including yourself, to calm down. NZ is not the worst in the world. It's not the best, either, and there's plenty to fix, but you're not going to get things fixed by pretending it's the worst in the world.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2152 posts Report Reply

  • Stewart, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    You seem to have got my posts mixed up with someone else's there, Matthew.

    I have not got hung up on who crashes more - check my posts & see if I have used the word 'crash' at all...

    There was never a licence giveaway on cornflakes packets.

    You seem to want to read things into people's posts that simply aren't there. You just infer them and then argue against your own inferences. I'm sick of your bigotted position on this and feel disinclined to discuss it further with you.

    Te Ika A Maui - Waitakere… • Since Oct 2008 • 572 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    I'm not too worried about driver education. Some people will always be terrible drivers regardless of training. Better roads with separated cycle-lanes is really the only thing that will make a significant difference to cycling safety.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Terry Baucher,

    Someone earlier said that NZ would not be in the top 100 most shithouse countries for driving. That's probably correct if we're looking at the world in total. However, by comparison with those countries we do measure ourselves against then we're top ten/top five.

    The NZTA has finally got around to publishing its annual report on motor vehicle crashes in 2011. The international comparisons have changed over the years & now focus on deaths only. On a deaths per 100,000 population NZ in 2010 was 5th behind South Korea, Greece, USA, Poland and Portugal.

    NZ's deaths per 100,000 population fell by 25% between 2000 and 2010, in Portugal it more than halved between 2000 & 2009.

    Like it or not our driving standards are poor and the road toll is not improving to the same extent as most other western countries are managing.

    Here is the international statistics section of the report

    http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Documents/Motor-Vehicle-Crashes-in-2011-International-comparisons-for-road-deaths.pdf

    The full report is at http://www.transport.govt.nz/research/Documents/Motor-Vehicle-Crashes-in-New-Zealand-2011.pdf

    Devonport • Since Nov 2008 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • Terry Baucher,

    I feature as one of the statistics in the 2011 report. 22 months ago I was time-trialling towards the city on a Saturday morning at 7.30 when I noticed a car u-turn about 200 metres in front of me (the driver later said she turned into a side road and then came back out). The car was well over to the left so having seen the u-turn I thought she would either park or accelerate away. As I started to overtake her (on the right) she did another u-turn. Her second in 100 metres (if that). It was my first crash in over 30 years of cycling here and in the UK.

    My crash was a good example of the unpredictibility of too many NZ drivers. They seem unaware of what's going on around them. WIth power steering and automatic gear boxes I think this will get worse before it gets better and the problem is compounded by the presence of mobile phones and other devices. Because I had seen her u-turn I made a decision I wouldn't have if I hadn't seen the first u-turn. But then again who could expect a car to u-turn twice inside 100 metres?

    I finished up with seven broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade, broken collarbone and a punctured lung. Mercifully I suffered no head injuries. The lung healed up very quickly but I have now had to have a second operation to permanently plate and repair the collarbone.

    The driver was very apologetic and pleaded guilty when charged getting a six month ban and some community service because as a single mother of three she couldn't afford much in reparations (although she did pay $500).

    Devonport • Since Nov 2008 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • Terry Baucher,

    Having read the Coroner's report (thanks Russell) it's sad that the "common sense" comment has drowned out the rest of the report which was pretty thorough. I'm sure someone else has already said this but I would like to know why he didn't make any recommendations about sideguards for trucks given the citations he gives.

    Devonport • Since Nov 2008 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • Terry Baucher,

    We're now told this was just a "joke" but what I find dispiriting is that 1400 people like this on Facebook (double the number since noon on Tuesday when I last looked). Obviously a "joke" with broad appeal

    Devonport • Since Nov 2008 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    I haven’t just made this shit up. I’ve paid attention to years of debates about how to try and reduce our youth road toll.

    Nobody is disagreeing that better training and stricter testing for new drivers is a good idea.

    But you’re saying that anyone who qualified before the current testing regime is a bad driver. That’s just nonsense, and that’s what we want you to show some evidence for.

    But like Stewart, I’m tired of having this conversation in which you diss everybody and seem to willfully misunderstand what we say.

    Let’s all be considerate and kind to each other on the road, and all be safe. And let’s lobby for better roads with physical separation of cars and cyclists. Let’s lobby for sideguards on trucks to help prevent cyclist deaths, like Russell says. Let’s be constructive.

    I’d much rather do that than argue about who drives badly and get everybody angry and polarised. We need less anger and agression on the road, not more.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3468 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Lilith __,

    We need less anger and agression on the road, not more.

    Tautoko to the max Lilith-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Lilith __,

    But you’re saying that anyone who qualified before the current testing regime is a bad driver. That’s just nonsense, and that’s what we want you to show some evidence for.

    Show me where I said that. Please. A direct quote. You want to talk about misconstruing someone's words, you've damned well found a doozy and now you'd better put up some proof.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    But you’re saying that anyone who qualified before the current testing regime is a bad driver. That’s just nonsense, and that’s what we want you to show some evidence for.

    Show me where I said that. Please. A direct quote. You want to talk about misconstruing someone’s words, you’ve damned well found a doozy and now you’d better put up some proof.

    OK:

    My point is that there’s a huge focus on getting new drivers ready to be drivers, including a significant increase in the focus on their adherence to “polite” driving behaviour, but it’s going to be decades before everyone who wasn’t subjected to the same level of scrutiny is off the roads. And until that happens, the bad attitudes and impolite behaviour will continue.

    …to take just one example. I’m done here.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3468 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    You want evidence, Ben? I find myself being tailgated more by late-model cars, and a lot of the worst failure to use indicators is also by late-model cars. Young drivers mostly can’t afford to own such things, and before you go off down the “it’s the parents’ car” track, I don’t think that could reasonably account for all the bad behaviour. Are young drivers perfect? Of course they’re not, but before they can start driving unsupervised they at least have to spend a longer period of time having their driving behaviour judged critically than most of those of us who’re aged over 30 ever did.

    That's evidence? That late model cars tailgate you more, in your subjective opinion?

    Over the last decade, pretty much. Before that, it was a joke. For my generation it was pass a 30-question multiple-guess scratch quiz (only 20 possible layouts, which could all be bought from BP and then handed around your friends with twink to hide the scratched panels) to get your learner, wait six months, do a drive of somewhere less than 15 minutes to get your restricted (proving that you could follow the speed limit, indicate, and hopefully carry out at least one of a hill start, a parallel park, and a three-point-turn), wait 9-18 months and get your full.

    So far as I can tell, the only thing that's changed since I was a lad is that you have to sit another practical test to get the full license. This test involves 20 mins of driving and tests all the same things I got tested for in 1986 when I sat my restricted license. Also the restricted test is longer, 45 mins of drive time. I recall doing about 20.

    As for the written test, it was actually a written and oral test, when I did it, with free form questions on the oral, and you couldn't fail any of them. I know quite a few people who failed, because they didn't know things like the legal speed limit for a trailer on the motorway.

    So it will filter out a more people who can't drive well, although they will continue re-sitting the test until they pass, at which point, they're on the road with the grand total of 2 years of driving experience, and cognizant of the road code. Which is exactly how it's been since at least the early 1980s.

    Not really a joke. I did have to prove I could drive a car, perform vital maneuvers, adhere to laws, know the road code, and to be attentive. The assessor watched me the entire time in a mirror that the car provided - it was a driving school car. But he had his own one as well, in case the car didn't have one.

    I know many people who failed either or both of the tests. They weren't a fucking cornflake packet, they were tests that you knew the road code, something that you were encouraged to read. Nearly everyone I knew who went for their license had read it cover to cover, and most people I ask questions of about the road code, despite many elapsed years since they got their licenses, will get almost every detail right.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

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