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Why older is not always wiser when it comes to Western Australia’s roads

Despite having had life’s parking brake applied long before cars became commonplace, it transpires Oscar Wilde – one of the world’s literary greats – was incredibly perceptive when he volunteered that “with age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone”.

Maturity and good motoring habits are certainly not synonymous. The statistics may point to younger drivers being more likely to be involved in an accident, but data can often cloud some uncomfortable truths.

Being more experienced behind a wheel does not clear Western Australia’s 30-, 40- and 50-somethings of any blame for the State having already passed the grim milestone of more than 100 recorded fatalities on regional roads this year. 

Why? For the simple reason that being a role model to our younger generations should not cease when pulling on a seatbelt.

Given the revered role parents play in the development of young people’s thinking and conduct, mum and dad “cab” drivers are best placed to influence the behaviour of tomorrow’s road users.

And yet, who can honestly profess that the example they set is exemplary? I can’t and I strongly suspect that is true for the majority. Only a select few – if any – still observe the same disciplines they once followed with diligence during their own journey to a license. When, for example, was the last time you consulted the Road User Handbook to familiarise yourself with any rule changes?

Without the pressure of a looming test or need to demonstrate proficiency for professional reasons, habits – some good, most bad – creep into, and become cemented in, our driving styles.

Whether a case of hands straying unnecessary from the steering wheel, not signalling at junctions or failing to regularly check mirrors, such actions do not go unnoticed by impressionable loved ones.

And if those lapses are more serious – be it exceeding speed limits or using a phone while driving – then it is highly likely any future lectures on road safety will fall on deaf ears. Monkey see, monkey do.

Similarly, the way in which we interact with other road users matters immensely. It shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that displays of kindness and courtesy – rather than aggression and abuse – can help to nurture more mild-mannered drivers.

Away from the pedals, parents also often seem to forget that they wield the power to mitigate some of the risks faced by the novice drivers in their households. They’re usually the provider of the vehicle used by their children and therefore hold the veto as to when – and when not – it can leave the driveway. Some sensible ground rules, such as not being allowed to drive late at night or capping the number of passengers they pick up, can go a long way to diverting young drivers from danger.

And finally, just because parents may wish to spoil a child – and are in the financial position to do so – does not mean they should. If your kids want to drive a vehicle with a V8 engine, then let them… when they have clocked up enough kilometres and experience to handle such a machine!

As the commercial director at Accident Claims Lawyers, I routinely have the displeasure of discovering what a potent mix powerful cars and peer pressure can be. The aspirations of too many young people are left crumpled by life-changing injuries sustained on our roads. I might be in the business of supporting those scarred physically and mentally by motor vehicle accidents, but I really don’t want to take their calls. 

If educating parents means that young people avoid acting out behaviours they have witnessed as an inexperienced driver, then perhaps it’s time for the Government to formally test the wisdom of “mature” drivers.

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