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Driver Education Round 2 – Your Responsibilities in the Driver’s Seat

Name: Arianna Sihota
Votes: 175

Your Responsibilities in the Driver’s Seat

As statistics continue to show, it is unfortunately no secret that vehicle accidents are becoming more common and frequent. While drinking and driving still is a problem, an area of increasing accidents is distracted driving. With the ever-present “need” for people to check their cellphones while behind the wheel, people may feel that a quick glance is harmless, but it may actually have devastating consequences. Additionally, with the changes in marijuana laws in Canada, driving under the influence of weed is another threat to driver safety – people may not realize recreational marijuana use can impact reflexes and concentration and the consequences their actions may have on themselves and others when operating a motor vehicle. These examples highlight the importance of mandating driver education, in order to help reduce the number of distracted/impaired driving deaths. I personally think that sharing actual stories of injuries caused from driving accidents is important. While some may see it as “easier” and more cost effective to have a friend or family member teach them how to operate a vehicle, the reality is that most non-professional driver trainers do not have adequate resources and skills to be able to teach someone how to safely drive. It is likely that one or more bad driving habits of a friend who is teaching someone to drive would be transferred on to a student driver. Not learning from a professional driving instructor just contributes to the cycle of driving related mistakes and accidents. Each person is unique, and certified driving schools are able to tailor their teaching styles to what best fits the student, which is imperative for learning safe driving practices.

In addressing what steps can be taken to reduce the number of driving-related deaths, I believe first and foremost, driving lessons at an accredited driving school need to be mandated. It should be a requirement that students complete a Driver’s Education course, in order to learn proper safe driving techniques (such as parking, shoulder checking, and merging). After one obtains their license, it needs to be renewed every five years. This renewal should include a driving knowledge retest, and every 10 years a driving test to ensure they still possess safe driving skills. This would help to reduce driving-related accidents. Furthermore, implementing actions to combat distractions may also be possible if technology would allow for phones to automatically switch to silent mode while a vehicle is being driven. Easy tips for drivers themselves could be as simple as placing the phone in the glove compartment or other hard to reach places, to reduce temptations to check the phone while behind the wheel. While this method may seem difficult to incorporate, I wholeheartedly believe ‘safe drivers’ could be rewarded each year with an “accident free” credit to reduce their insurance costs slightly. The outcome of this would likely result in safer driving, and therefore justifies the work needed to put this plan into motion.

Additionally, raising education about accidents may help reduce the number of driving related deaths. When I was in high school, my class did a field trip to the morgue, where we saw actual bodies of people who had died as a result of reckless driving. Those images are forever ingrained in my mind, which is different than merely reading a statistic. Adding on to the importance of education, I did a high school dance dedicated to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), where we honoured two parents and three small children who had tragically lost their lives at the hands of an impaired driver. These examples showcase how important it is to spread awareness and education about how crucial it is that everyone act responsibly while they are in the driver’s seat. Lastly, installing breathalysers and cameras in every new vehicle may help ensure long term road safety, by minimizing the number of people who drive under the influence and record what is happening while a vehicle is being used. The cameras would play an important role in this process, as they can help ensure that people are not getting their passengers or friends to fabricate breathalyser results to under the legal limit. If the breathalyser result was above the limit, then the car would not start, minimizing risk.

While I am fortunate to not have experienced being in a car accident personally, unfortunately several of my family members have been involved in accidents due to other people’s reckless driving. The incident that sticks with me the most is when my dad was struck in a crosswalk, by a driver who was looking at his phone. While the driver stayed at the scene and cooperated with police, if he had been following the rules, the accident never would have happened, and my dad would not now be dealing with chronic hip and back issues. Aside from these physical effects, being hit by a car also took a toll on his mental health. He was afraid to use crosswalks and get in cars for a long time afterwards, as he was unsure if a driver would be distracted or not. Fortunately, my dad has overcome his fears and now has no issues getting into cars, but his accident profoundly impacted our family, and will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

I have also witnessed friends and family members driving irresponsibly, and since the age of 3, have always condemned them for doing so. When my older cousins used to pick me up from preschool, every time I would see them speeding, doing illegal U-turns, or not wearing their seatbelts, I would scold them from my car seat until they listened to me. I do the same with my friends now; when I observe them speeding or using their phones, I always make sure to speak out and tell them that what they are doing is not okay – they run the risk of hurting themselves and other innocent civilians. As with most things in life, there are times when speaking out causes tension and annoyance, but I would much rather deal with a small amount of discomfort, than be dealing with the loss or serious injury of my friend(s), myself, or others. I have volunteered with my local police department for the past two years and have often participated in Speed and Cell Watch (watching for speeding and distracted drivers), so I have witnessed many close calls, and feel very strongly about the clear need for change on our roads.

We can all play a part in aiding others in becoming better drivers, by speaking out whenever we see someone doing something that is not appropriate, sharing the statistics and increasing education regarding driving-related deaths, and continuing to work together to ensure we are all doing our best to make the roads safer for everyone.

Thank you for this opportunity, your consideration, and taking the time to read my essay.