The real reason I started this blog was to get something off my chest. Last Friday night, myself and Trish were heading back into town after a Tai Chi workshop in the college. Now, maybe we were super chilled out and, as a result, the outside world seemed more garish than usual but the town never annoyed me as much as it did that night.
And the biggest annoyance was the cars. As we passed the hospital, some lunatic came around the corner at a ferocious speed. He was going so fast that his car took a slight speed wobble. It was worse when we got into the town centre. Boy racers flying around the town in those ridiculously looking hatch-backs with those fucking loud exhausts. Speed and noise. It never got under my skin like it did that night. A line of them were waiting at the lights and they were beeping and revving at each other (male and female drivers). I nearly wept in frustration. I was almost taken aback by how much it bugged me. I let a roar at them to shut-up but no-one heard me.
O Connell St. was like The Monaco Grand Prix. And it wasn't just young fellows; taxis, “regular” folk, everyone was bombing down the main street. If a pedestrian fell out onto the road, he'd have no chance. It's an unsettling experience when you don't feel safe on the footpath. And not a squad car in sight.
You just know that it's gonna happen; some drunk is gonna tumble off the footpath and get hit and get killed. And then they'll all howl about how SOMETHING must be done.
Why must it take a death to cop people on? How much would it really cost to put a few speed cameras on the main street?
Speed. What is it about speed?
Something like four hundred people die every year on the roads in Ireland. Four hundred a year! That's over one person a day. If the stats for air traffic deaths were anywhere near that, would you get on a plane? Over one person a day.
What's to be done? Well, if people actually thought they'd be caught and punished for reckless driving, it'd be a start. The evidence is there; when the penalty points were introduced, the number of fatalities fell. But when the public realised that the computer infrastructure didn't exist and that they had a good chance to get away scot free, the numbers rose again. So let's get the penalty point system going right. If people were scared of getting caught, they'd soon slow down.
Plus, there's way way way too many people out their driving without a license. You don't need much more than the ability to fill out a form and pass a pop-quiz to get a provisional license, yet they're all out there, on the roads. I drove for years on just a provisional. I drove home after failing my first test, tell me any other country where that happens.
Full license holders aren't a whole lot better. Too many people are unfamiliar with what lane to be in when approaching a round-about. Do you know? People driving too slow, not using indicators, straying across lanes, not using indicators, talking on the phone while driving, not using indicators, putting on make-up while driving, NOT USING GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING INDICATORS! We need refresher courses for people with full licenses.
The state of some of the roads is cat. They're guck bad. They're lethal. The speed limit system doesn't make sense. It's as if roads are given a grade on paper in relation to the towns they connect and then given a speed limit according to their grade, a speed limit that may or may not match the reality.
The Ray D'Arcy Show decided to take a stand. Ray made a brilliant suggestion. The will to tackle this problem needs to come from the top. Therefore, he asked his listeners to bombard the Taoseach's office with emails, demanding action. And the emails didn't just make ambiguous statements like “SOMETHING must be done” - they said that the penalty points had to made to work, that the Gardai need to be available more, that we need more Gardai. This was a good idea. The emails were sent and it had an effect; a couple of days later, the Taoseach made a speech in the Dail in relation to road traffic deaths. Unfortunately, Ray didn't focus on this. Instead, he went in the direction of the problem of boy-racers.
Now don't get me wrong, these little idiots in their souped-up Corsas are a problem and a problem that needs to be tackled. Ray and his team with the help of his listeners worked together to produce an ad that targets this age group and I think it might just have an effect. However, I think these boys and their cars are an easy target. It's nice to have generic, late-teenage boys in bling-mobiles to blame. That way, we can absolve orselves from the guilt and from the sin. The speedsters are simply a symptom of the disease. We all have the disease, it's everyone's sin.
The sin is our irresposible driving. The disease is speed.
Speed. What is it about speed?
I see a similarity between Irish road deaths and gun deaths in the US. As far as I know, Canada has a similar number of firearms per head of population as the US, yet they have far far less gun deaths. So, it could be argued that the problem isn't with the guns but with the gun toters. Again, as far as I know, Ireland has far far more road deaths per head of population than say the UK. Why is this? Why are we killing ourselves? What's wrong with us? We need to figure this out.
Where am I going with this? Well, here is what I think. The problem with road deaths isn't so much to do with the boy-racers. It's not bad roads or provisional license holders or lack of Gardai or ineffectual politicians. The problem with road deaths is you.
The problem with road deaths is me. It's all of us. We need to slow down. We need to concentrate more on what we're doing behind the wheel. And we really really need to lose this idea that we are invincible. That it'll never be me that ends up dead. We are soft, brittle creatures made of soft, brittle material. When we get hit by a few tonnes of metal, we make quite a splash on the road, quite a mess. And someone else then has to wash us off the street.
So... slow down, idiot.