Mirror, signal, manoeuvre! Those three words are forever etched into the back of our brains when we learn to drive, never to be forgotten, or are they? Is the practice of driving the same as it was 10 years ago? Or even five years ago?
The natural conclusion to come to is that there are more cars on the road now than there ever have been, and as the population increases, naturally do the amounts of cars. Throw into the mix the amount of two-car families with growing families and, as both parents will need to work, we have an instantly over-saturated road. So, is it actually harder for everyone, not just learners, on the road when it comes to driving?
The (Brief) History Of Driver Competency
In order to go forward, we must go back. Looking at the facts of driving over 100 years ago, nobody needed to pass any test to get onto the road, but merely had to pay for their driving license if they could afford the five shillings, so what does this say about driving back then?
The first driving test was introduced in 1935, and the evolution of the theory test is young in comparison. It wasn’t until 1996 that the written theory test was introduced, and this was to replace Highway Code questions during the driving test itself. After the year 2000, the theory test became computerised, and in 2002 the hazard perception test became commonplace, and there are additional changes to the practical test in the UK due to be implemented.
So even looking at when driving licenses were first issued in 1903, it only took 32 years to introduce driving tests as a manner of competency on the road. And then looking at the gap from 1996 to 2002 it’s an even shorter gap to measure drivers competency in terms of their knowledge of road traffic signs, this gives new drivers and learners a better idea of what it takes to drive on the road now. And the modern driver has infinitely more learning materials at their disposal, you can find out about the traffic signs here for one of the many frames of reference on the most basic of road safety measures.
Add to this the many driving instructors that are delivering their own tips and tricks to navigating the peskiest of manoeuvres, and you’ve got many more options for the learner driver of today. So, naturally, the stricter methods of testing drivers are moving with the times. But what does this say about the Old Guard, that passed their test before the stricter methods came into place?
Drivers Over A Certain Age…
There is a major bone of contention with older drivers versus young drivers, but this is nothing new. In fact, this has raged on for a long, long time. The perspective of the seasoned driver is that there are more idiots on the roads than ever before. And this is evidenced by the various amounts of accidents that occur on major roads on a daily basis.
You only have to venture out onto a freeway on a motorway for a short period of time to find people who are willing to risk the lives of other people on the roads by weaving in and out of cars at high speed and changing lanes without indicating. And statistically, these drivers are the younger ones. In fact, you are more likely to have an accident just after you’ve passed your test. This fact is especially reflected in the cost of insurance for young drivers. And while there are stricter methods of testing, the consensus is still the same; you learn more after you pass your test than you ever did while learning to drive.
So, going by this logic, the more seasoned drivers are naturally going to be safer on the road. But, more people are learning to drive later in life now than ever. There are even pensioners who are taking their driving test after the age of 80. And the opinion of driving instructors teaching learners over a certain age is that they are less risky in their driving. Subjectively, this can be viewed as a good thing, but it is argued by driving instructors that it’s harder to teach older learners, especially on the busier roads.
As a result, people are more likely to drive with a riskier demeanour and are more likely to cause accidents. A lot of seasoned drivers lament driving now, saying it’s far more of a chore than it used to be. It appears that now if you are a driver over the age of 50, they would tell you driving used to be far more enjoyable and also used to be stress-free. Now you can be met with a flurry of disapproving faces because you are going the speed limit instead of speeding! And who are these people endlessly honking are flashing their lights behind you because you are doing the speed limit..?
The “Busy” Driver
With all the busy roads, a simple commute to work that used to take 20 minutes can take three times as long! The simple act of changing lanes can be a stressful process now. So for any driver who is unfamiliar with a specific area, and is trying to learn the roads (as well as get to their destination in one piece), it can result in a bit of a nightmare journey. So, the simple process of getting from A to B is even harder now because of the driver that is so set in their ways and is selfish on the road by not letting people in, it means that those that are trying to drive safely end up being the dangerous driver, in a sense.
This is because it would appear that everyone else around the safe driver is driving too fast, and so the temptation to drive fast is more commonplace now. And this is a dangerous pattern for new drivers to be involved with because it’s a habit that’s easy to get into, which will inevitably lead to an accident. Every driver is typically “busy” now and has to set aside more driving time to be better prepared for the inevitable traffic jams, busy roads, and the various dangerous drivers on the road. As a result, we are all slowly turning into that impatient and busy driver. So, we are all trying to adapt to the changes in driving as a practice.
So is driving getting harder with every passing year? It would appear so. But is there anything we can do to help make this easier? It would appear that in the short-term, no. But there has been an increase in the amount of speed traps, speed cameras, and harsher penalties for improper driving, such as using your mobile phone. And even the fact that there’s still a high amount of road deaths due to drink-driving, the fact of the matter is that we are all ill-prepared for the dangers of the road regardless of how new we are to driving or not. But as the common driving test is becoming harder, this should reflect the difficulty every new and modern driver has to face.
So what’s the solution for everyone else? Should we all retake our driving tests, or should we go back to the drawing board and get reacquainted with road theory? The fact of the matter is that the rules of the road haven’t changed, it’s the drivers. And this is something that every single one of us has to adapt to, and it can be a steep learning curve, especially for new drivers. But for us all to drive that little bit better, we need to stop focusing on our own selfishness on the road and pay attention to others, because it is abundantly clear that this isn’t happening.