Graham Hurdle's blog: 21 September 2011 - "Sorry, I just didn't see you"
21 September 2011
Graham Hurdle is managing director of E-Training World
We have all experienced a driver pulling out from a junction in front of us and have asked ourselves: "Why didn't he see me?"
Now a major insurer is calling for eye tests to be linked to driving licence renewal and made mandatory every 10 years.
Another report from the Department for Transport has said that 112,000 learner drivers failed their driving test last year due to "dangerous faults" and in some cases this saw individuals being involved in "near misses" - whatever that might mean! There were a further 260,000 failures recorded as poor observation at junctions and a further 200,000 as a result of poor observation in the use of mirrors.
The question has to be - is it poor eyesight, lack of observation skills, or both? Or could it be something else that is the problem?
This morning I completed a round trip of 18 miles (so nice to have a meeting so close to the office, normally they are 100 + miles away) and during that short journey I witnessed two elderly drivers go through red lights. You might immediately come to the conclusion that this was due to poor eyesight, but on both occasions the drivers stopped at the red lights and then drove through the lights. In both cases they must have seen the lights as they stopped, so it can't be poor eyesight or a lack of observation skills and as I quickly caught up with them (no I didn't jump the lights, the reason I found myself behind them again was they were driving at 20mph in a national speed limit), it wasn't due to impatience.
So did the two simply have a poor attitude? I don't think so, as the rest of their driving didn't show any evidence of a poor attitude. Some might say driving at such slow speeds in a 60 mph limit shows a poor attitude, but both of these drivers appeared to be in their 70s - not your normal boy-racer type.
So far we have dismissed poor eyesight, observation skills and poor attitude as reasons why they jumped the lights. So why did they commit the offence? I believe they did see the lights so they were observant, but due to a lack of concentration they didn't register what they were seeing. If we are honest we can all recall times when we have seen the lights change or the car about to emerge from the junction ahead, but although we know we did see it, we didn't change our driving, simply carrying on at the same speed making no attempt to brake or change road position.
I believe the reason why so many drivers are failing their test is not due to poor observation, but because of the pressure of taking the test. This pressure means they are unable to concentrate fully on the driving task as they are constantly worrying about the examiner and the result.
Unfortunately it is not just during the driving test that we are unable to concentrate fully on driving. Business drivers are concentrating on a million other things other than driving when they are behind the wheel.
If the DSA want more learners to drive safely on test and businesses want safer drivers, then we need to address the root cause of the problem. Simply making drivers take an eyesight test every 10 years or getting Driving Instructors to teach observation skills on its own will not solve the problem.
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