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Teaching how to drive safely

Every year as Christmas approaches I hope that the roads will be dry, non-slip surfaces will be without a surface of diesel or oil so that they can work to perfection, and the multitude of well ‘oiled’ drivers who take to the roads in their thousands after work celebrations, family dinners and even the occasional formal function will drive very slowly and with supreme deliberation.

Babies and animals should be banned from the scheme for new drivers

Of a certainty this all has to be a compromise, because after 58 years legally behind the wheel I realise that with the almost non-existent enforcement of our drink and drive laws, a very small percentage of drivers will either use a taxi or will have one passenger able to drive who is stone-cold sober.

One must bear in mind the extraordinary, but for us normal, weekend use of cars, often with occupants far over the safe limit. For most people, the safe limit would either be total abstinence or the consumption of a small glass of wine or quarter litre of beer. It seems remarkable to visitors from northern climes that more accidents don’t happen. Possibly the fact that thousands of apparently horribly intoxicated southerners drive with seeming impunity can be put down to the fact that in the Mediterranean people have grown up with a wine bottle on the table for most serious meals, and wine in small quantities is allowed, almost enshrined in the social way of things for children as young as 12.

One possible result is that southerners who are experienced motorists appear to be able to tolerate more alcohol than strangers expect. This is in all probability an illusion. However, the roads are full of slow moving traffic. Most people only have to motor a short distance and experienced older types, male and female appear to get home in relative safety.

This however does not, in my opinion apply to the great majority of drivers in their first two or three years behind the wheel whilst they still suffer from tunnel vision and find it difficult to get to grips with the art of driving even whencold sober.

I would legislate so that for the first two years of motoring life drivers would be allowed a vehicle developing no more than 45 bhp, with a top speed of no more than 100 km/h and with no power steering, power brakes or airconditioning.

At the end of this apprenticeship road craft would be nicely developed, great attention would have been paid to other motorists and then and only then would I allow the purchase or use of a more powerful machine.

Anyone with a license to drive can practice in any EU country, a fact that I find disturbing to say the least, because unless we are allowed to drive at the European average speed limits, which will be far above ours when new legislation is introduced shortly (Gozo with no roads faster than 60 km/h and Malta with only three roads where 80 km/h may be touched) we will be putting many drivers at serious risk when they even visit Sicily.

UK lawmakers are seriously considering to introduce legislation restricting new drivers to only have family members on board. I would go further and only allow new drivers alone, or with one family member who drives. But definitely no children, even if in Isofix seats, because babies and animals really should be banned from the scheme for new drivers.

In my opinion as we approach 2013, all driving instructors as opposed to just the minority should teach the skills required for safe, long-term driving and not simply enough to pass the test. Driving examiners could then conduct serious tests knowing that their test candidates knew both theory and the art of driving to an acceptable standard, which would then be considerably higher than itis today.

Arriva appears to be in quite a lot of trouble and I can understand, but refuse to condone the speed many of their drivers reach when the road is clear. Schedules should be properly worked out, depending on the known traffic congestion at various times of day, and drivers should not have to exceed our speed limits to make up for crowded town roads that Transport Malta knows all about.

I would, however, like to see wardens giving tickets to all Arriva drivers and not simply ordinary members of the motoring public when they straddle or cross continuous centre lines unless in certain circumstances. The law doesn’t differentiate between normal motorists and bus drivers.

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