Ignorance, Lack of Experience and Testosterone

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This kind of article makes me angry. There’s a false premise contained within the article – actually multiple false premises – that young people are not to blame for their inexperience, and that vehicles that they drive need to be late model, and rated at least 5 stars on the ANCAP ratings. I call complete and utter garbage.

Young people, and older, supposedly experienced drivers, die on the roads because they don’t appreciate the consequences that flow from their actions. Speed does kill, as does inattention, distraction, lack of understanding of the capabilities of the vehicle being driven, physics, weather….. I can go on and on.

Driving any vehicle on the roads is deliberately placing your own life and the lives of your passengers as well as other road users, in grave danger. We do it because we’ve passed a mediocre test of our physical and cognitive skills and no one ever examines those skills again. Young adolescent males die on the roads in massively greater numbers than young women because of a male sex hormone called testosterone. It’s that simple. At 18, if you’re male, you’re over flowing with it. It’s purpose is evolutionary. It deadens the males risk perspective. As hunter-gathers, if males didn’t gather meat by taking on dangerous animals, the tribe/clan wouldn’t survive. We’re still burdened with those impacts today.

So, how do we teach young men, and young women to a lesser degree, about risk analysis and assessment as an integral part of piloting a motor vehicle? Start early with training and not just the physical mechanisms of moving a vehicle around on the road. Teach young people to think. The three R’s are important, but so is understanding cognitive dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance, or any of it’s related paradigms, is a result of discovering that something one believed was true, is not true. Like the ability to drive and not come to grief. Many many licenced drivers actually believe they are ‘good’ drivers purely on the basis that they’ve “never had an accident”. My response to such claims is simple. They’ve been lucky. Not having been involved in a traffic incident is NOT a qualification of your skills as a driver.

As a driving instructor I don’t see my role as one of ensuring young people understand traffic law and accurately manage a motor vehicle on the road. Yes, that’s part of what I do, but a very small part. I teach people of all ages to think like drivers. Think about what they’re doing, how close they stop being another vehicle at traffic lights. Think about how they accelerate and brake and corner. Think about the physics involved in how the vehicle moves, the kinetic energy it carries when in motion and the consequences of disrespecting those elements.

As for urging parents to provide their newly fledged driver children with supposedly safer vehicles…. The number of ANCAP stars makes zero difference when a driver disrespects the missile they’re piloting. Cars don’t kill people, but an integral part of any vehicle will. The inexperienced, bravado filled, inattentive or just plain ignorant nut behind the wheel will. Mortgaging your house – a ludicrous statement by Transport Accident Commission chief executive Joe Calafiore – to secure your off-spring a 5-star ANCAP rated, near new vehicle will not save their life if they do not properly understand that vehicle, or how to drive defensively on the road. A well maintained used vehicle in the hands of a thoroughly trained, skilled, attentive and responsible driver who knows how to NOT get into positions where incidents might occur, will keep them alive much longer than a brand new ANCAP rated vehicle in the hands of an idiot.

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