A study of four hundred drivers from Ottawa University showed that virtually all rated themselves as above average. Drivers had to rate their ability against an average motorist of the same sex in multiple driving scenarios and situations like rain for example. Middle aged men class themselves as most superior to all other male drivers. However young males also felt most superior. No surprises here so. The reality is less flattering.
There was no mention of previous accidents from any of the four hundred drivers studied. However at least four of these would have been involved in an injury accident within the past twelve months had they lived in Ireland.
According to The Road Safety Authorities (RSA) Road Collision Facts 2007, there were 29,327 Road Traffic Accidents (RTA’s) reported to the Gardai and some 7,806 injuries recorded. The cost to the state was €1.38 billion and each fatal collision cost €2.9 million. Male drivers shouldn’t be as confident as 77% of all car drivers killed in 2007 were male. In 2007, among all casualties including minor injuries, female car passengers were twice as likely to be injured when compared to male car passengers.
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of accidents (RoSPA), many drivers behalf badly because their errors usually cause no ill effect, thus their errors are reinforced. The average driver does not associate crashes with carelessness. This backs up the claim by the Ottawa study that drivers underestimate their own risk and overestimate ability. Those who take advanced driving courses which highlight and try to change these behaviours avail of reduced insurance premiums in the United Kingdom.
But why do we become complacent? I believe it’s to do with the vehicles themselves. I fly small aircraft where the senses are fully aware compared to a vehicle. There is little sound insulation and the light weight makes you “feel and hear” the wind energy. On a cold day a pilot still carries out a pre-flight his aircraft, checking the fuel for water and all controls. We just go out start the car, turn up the heater and go back into the house, occasionally listening out just to make sure it hasn’t been nicked. In an aircraft you sense the speed and you are always aware of the danger at altitude. Few of us walk on fast urban roads. But if you want to feel the energy created by cars, take that walk (make sure you have a high Vis vest though). Your body will vibrate as a truck pushes the air out of its way and toward you.
Believe it or not, it’s much easier to avoid crashing in a plane. It can move in three dimensions. If two aircraft are on a collision course they both go right for example avoiding each other. A driver is curtailed to two and can only control speed and direction. Most of the time there is a ditch waiting or another metallic weapon in the hands of another Judah Ben Hur. Like the Coliseum (M50) the slightest error and we pull down a few lanes of chariots travelling beside us.
Technology knows that our time is up. ABS, ESP, ESC are all TLA’s (Three letter Acronym)for don’t let the human do it. We can’t be trusted to protect ourselves. In 2008 a study of 16,413 adults revealed that 10% don’t wear seat belts! I’m sure these idiots believe that it’s not the flying out the window that will kill you but the sudden stop. A surgeon from Donegal once opened at a road safety conference I attended by putting a bag of sugar cubes he had taken from the canteen into his hand and rattling them against the microphone. He said they represent the bones of a child after being hurled out of a moving vehicle.