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Journeys : April May 2010
Risks of rural roads Recently while travelling on the Interlaken road in central Tasmania I had an unfortunate experience that highlights what I believe is an escalating safety issue on many roads. This road is a narrow dirt road with little safety margin on the verges in many sections. On a blind cor ner I met an oncoming log truck taking up almost the entire width of the road. There was little opportunity for either vehicle to look for a safe pullover area to enable the vehicles to pass safely. To avoid a collision I was forced to take my chances in the bush verge. The end result was an extended period to recover my vehicle from a ditch. This is not the first such incident that I have experienced. Fortunately, in this case no injuries to persons occurred, but the potential for disaster is high, particularly as this road is frequently used by tourist holiday vehicles, including caravans. With increasing logging activity due to the establishment of so many plantations, there will be serious incidents in time. If these narrow dirt roads are to be used by such vehicles, they need to be widened to a safety standard or war ning vehicles should be required to precede vehicles that are wider than half the road, especially where the road is a well-used thoroughfare. B. Bennett Mt Stuart Driving licence -- earn it! Continually reducing the speed limits, increasing numbers of speed cameras and traffic police are not likely to lead to much of a reduction in Tasmania's road accident toll, as the last two years have show n. A more commonsense approach perhaps is to introduce measures that make having a driving licence something to be ear ned and consequently valued. We allow our politicians to travel overseas regularly at ta xpayer expense to learn from other cultures, but it seems that good ideas are rarely brought back and applied in Australia. In the first place, the age at which a person can begin to obtain their driving licence should be raised to 20. A human being's brain and physical development is fully developed at 21. In the first part of a new driver education package, aspiring drivers should be required to attend and pass an emergency first aid course that focuses on road accident trauma. Next, they should be required to undergo a basic mechanical course to understand how a vehicle works and learn basic ser vicing and emergency applications, such as what to do when a fan belt breaks or how to change a wheel. After these courses have been passed, then driving lessons can begin through reputable service providers. (It would be interesting to know who teaches drivers to indicate to tur n right when they reach the intersection and not well before. Also who teaches drivers to swing out to the left when executing a right hand tur n. This is understandable only when driving a semi-trailer). Obtaining a licence should be more study- intensive, more expensive and the whole process should be completed in stages over a longer time period, at an age closer to some maturity. Perhaps then people would keep in mind that a driving licence is a privilege that should be earned and then protected by doing the right thing on the roads. All drivers need to appreciate that they are in charge of a potentially deadly weapon. An early adolescent visit to road trauma victims in hospitals and providing graphic images of the consequences of road accidents would ser ve to open young people's eyes while they are still impressionable. Maybe it would help in reducing the number of testosterone heroes on the roads. Finally, once a person has gained their P plates they ought to complete a mandatory defensive driving course before they can obtain a full licence. The plan sounds harsh, but the immediate advantage is the removal of everyone under 21 from the roads to start with. Bridget Simm Moonah Your views extra Speed limits -- how would you know? As a predominantly urban driver, I recently found myself confused when driving in the country. I encountered a number of sign s posting the speed limit as 'END 50' or 'END 80'. I confess to being quite uncertain about the new speed limit on the section of road I entered. The more I drove, the more annoyed I got. If someone was tailing me, I wondered whether I was driving too slowly; if I sped up, I feared being booked by traffic police. Why anyone would post a sign saying what the speed limit is not, rather than what it is, is absolutely beyond me. I could give many reasons why it is indefensibly stupid, but it is plainly simpler to place a sign saying what the limit IS rather than what it is NOT. That someone is paid using my tax dollars to dream up and implement this nonsense is an added annoyance, and makes a mockery of attempts to reduce road trauma. So, to the question: just what IS the speed limit in these situations? And how would you know? And how would an interstate or international visitor know? I suspect it might be one of 90, 100, or 110, depending on where you are, and whether your municipality may or may not be having a new speed limit trial that may or may not have ended. As a final aside, I seriously doubt that any speed fine levied in this situation would stand up to scr utiny if challenged in court, as it is simply too easy to prove reasonable grounds for being confused -- 'Frankly, your honour, if those erecting the signs don't know, how can I possibly know?' Phil Jones April / May 10 34
Feb March 2010
RACT MNJ June July 2010