Opinion: Driving standards would improve if more people cared about it

When people don’t care about something, like driving a car, they are usually not very good at it

Dan Column Apathetic Drivers Cover MAIN Jpg

Being immersed in a world of cars and car people is a privilege and an honour but it’s occasionally worth coming up for air and reminding one’s self of an unfortunate reality – a vast majority of drivers don’t give a damn about cars.

To these Australians, the car is simply another device lumped in with white goods and other non-aspirational purchases existing in a retail landscape where Kia has about as much brand significance as Kelvinator.

Sadly, while you and I revel in the wonder of horsepower figures and lavish design, we represent a minority, with a far larger number of individuals regarding the car as a necessary evil.

However, there’s actually real evidence that for some people it’s not apathy but downright contempt.

Take the washing machine for example. It sits in a nice warm room in your house and has just one job to do that you might only ask it to perform two or three times a week. And yet, feed it one too many forgotten receipts in your jeans pocket and it will vomit soapy water all over your laundry despite only just being out of warranty. When this happens, Toyota Camry owners will gladly invite the repair person into their house, keep them topped up with coffee and pleasant conversation and, with a smile, pay them anything they ask when they are done.

But, dear Christ, it couldn’t be more different when a car goes wrong.

Regardless of the brand, most vehicles will tolerate minus temperatures to the 40s, wet and icy conditions, arid deserts, corrugated tracks, extended periods of time at speed and over many, many hundreds of thousands of kilometres.

But if the unloved and neglected Camry pops a radiator hose it’s not uncommon for the owner to speak to the quoting service advisor as if they just suggested immolating. Unfortunately, if this type of person can read a registration plate and perform some very slow parking manoeuvres, they too are allowed driving licences like the rest of us.

And this is a very bad thing because, generally speaking, when people don’t care about something they are usually not very good at it, either.

That’s why if you are ever unlucky enough to share a karaoke booth with me you’ll be treated to something that sounds like a torturous blend of Max Harris and Rebecca Black, and why I’ve kicked more footballs through windows than goalposts – I simply don’t care about either.

Fortunately, there are a number of warning signs you can look for that offer a red flag that you are in the vicinity of an apathetic driver. If there is a box of tissues on the parcel shelf of a car, I would bet my lungs that the person behind the wheel is about to do something stupid.

Just the other day I encountered a car that had two boxes in the back and, yes, the driver was twice as ignorant and dangerous as a one-boxer. I’m not surprised.

But recently I have noticed some drivers who have wedged a box of tissues between the dashboard and the windscreen in front of them! Let’s ignore the staggeringly dangerous thing about obscuring your view of the road for a minute and consider the main question here: why? How badly do you need to access tissues while you are driving that you would willingly endanger the lives of you, your passengers and other road users?

Unless there is mucus liberally gushing from your face and making the steering wheel dangerously slippery, keep them in the glove box like normal people.

It’s the same for any driver with something dangling from the rear-view mirror. If you put more faith in a lucky charm or religious symbol than your own driving ability to keep you safe on the road, then you are a liability – avoid.

If people cared about cars and cared about driving I am confident the standards of driving on our roads and safety, for that matter, would be infinitely higher.

The solution is very simple therefore – if you don’t have a subscription to at least one high-quality car magazine then you should take the bus.


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