Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Confederation of Australian

Motor Sport apparently wants the government to teach twelve year old children to drive. They want road safety and driving to be taught as part of the secondary school curriculum. The suggestion has come up because there has been another proposal to raise the driving age to eighteen.
While I am a very firm believer in teaching road safety I do not believe it is appropriate to teach twelve year old children to drive. There are twelve year children who can drive. There are children younger than twelve who can drive. They are either children who live on farms who never leave the property in the vehicle they are driving or they wrong doers who can cause immense damage behind the wheel of a car in an urban area. 
I have a child driving a vehicle in the plot of one of my books. He is told to go along the track leading to the edge of their property. Circumstances demand he drives a short distance on the road before turning on to another track. I make it quite clear that he is very aware of what he is doing, that he does not want to do it. He is frightened by the circumstances and the responsibility. He knows what he is doing is very dangerous. The incident in the book is based on a real life incident and, in real life, the driver in question chose not to get his licence until he was twenty-one. He still felt traumatised.
Driving is a very adult activity. It requires physical and psychological skills which do not completely develop until people, especially males, are in their mid-twenties. We can certainly teach people about driving earlier than that but we cannot teach them to drive safely at the age of twelve or even fourteen or sixteen. They can be the most responsible kids in the world but they are still too young to drive. They are not physically and mentally ready to do it.
It is even more difficult for children to develop road safety skills now than it once was. Children are much more likely to be taken to and from school by car. Walking along a footpath is a rare activity. Crossing a road on foot is also rare. Our experience of traffic while inside a car, especially if someone else is driving, is completely different from the pedestrian experience. Teenage years should be spent learning to be a safe pedestrian and a safe cyclist.
I know there are many who disagree but it is my belief that the age for learning to drive should be raised to eighteen here, just as it is in some other parts of the world. It is an adult activity which should be confined to adulthood - and only then with proper professional training.

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