This past weekend my husband and I visited a couple of block parties being held in the city of Gilbert. We introduced ourselves as board members of the Red Means Stop Traffic Safety Alliance and owners of DrivingMBA. As I introduced myself to a nice elderly woman she proceeded to tell me she got a “very expensive ticket” and all she did was run a red light. She said, “I was in Mesa and I didn’t really know my way around and I didn’t mean to run the light.” In her mind, she was innocent of any wrong doing because “she didn’t mean to do it and nobody got hurt.” She was lucky, there were no pedestrians walking the crosswalk, bicyclists, motorcyclists or vehicles for that matter who “could” have been there when she “didn’t mean to run the light.”
Unfortunately, that is the attitude of many when they “get caught” running a red light or speeding. They don’t understand why the penalty is so steep, when they “really didn’t mean to do it.” I don’t think anyone really gets into their vehicle and decides, today I am going to speed, drive distracted or run a red light, but they do it anyway. Sometimes they get caught and get a ticket, sometimes nothing significant happens and sometimes lives change because of those actions.” When someone is killed or maimed because of an individual’s behavior behind the wheel, even if they didn’t intend to do it, it still has consequences, it still impacts many lives and we can’t just ignore the havoc because someone “didn’t mean to do it.”
This cavalier attitude about driving permeates our culture. One way you see it is in the choices parents make about preparing their children to drive. They do the very minimum and as soon as their child is eligible they take them to the MVD where the student takes a test that often lasts less than 15 minutes. That test is certainly not a comprehensive evaluation of their ability to drive. It is impossible to evaluate a student’s ability to observe their environment, plan and make a critical decision in a parking lot or side street, yet this evaluation is enough for MANY parents. I can’t tell you the number of parents that tell me, “well they passed the test at the MVD.” I really want to respond, “So, your point would be…?”
There are young drivers on our roadways with less than 10 or 12 supervised driving hours and yet they have a license. If someone teaches them “just enough” about vehicle control and making a turn, coming to a complete stop, the likelihood of passing that test is pretty high, particularly in Arizona where the requirements are minimal.
It numbs my mind, why we treat this critical life-skill so lightly. If you really think about it, driving is the most dangerous activity any one of us does any day of the week, yet we are willing to put our precious children on the road with no training and minimal experience and practice. Unfortunately, many of them have a collision in their first weeks or months of driving. “I didn’t mean to” isn’t going to give you comfort when something catastrophic occurs.