Sunday, 7 October 2012

Watch the Road!

Continuing from yesterday's Blog:

Watch the Road! is something those electronic sign boards never tell you to do. Watch Your Speed! is a different matter. They are keen on that.

But driving isn't about studying your instrument panel. Safe driving is (mainly) about watching the road while you drive a car you take care to ensure is roadworthy. Tires, for instance.

Aircraft pilots spend a lot of time studying their instrument panels. Sometimes they go to sleep and rely on the autopilot. But the cockpit is still at the front of the plane and I imagine ( and I hope) that pilots look out of the window as they take off and come into land. When the plane is on the ground, pilots walk round it and do a visual inspection (I think this is a requirement). Once I was waiting for a Ryanair flight to take off when the pilot announced he had noticed a nail in his front tire. He wasn't worried about take off, but he was a bit worried about landing. So we had to wait for a new tire to be dropped off and the wheel to be changed. It's not all autopilot.

Driving is never autopilot, even with cruise control. You have to look ahead (and behind) all the time. The best thing about the new model Skoda Octavia to which I have recently upgraded is that it has better wing mirrors than any I have ever had -  on both sides, I get a terrific view. On German motorways, they really make things easier.

I think the Highways Agency in the UK imagines itself as a sort of land version of Air Traffic Control, though instead of communicating with individual pilots it communicates to everyone through those electronic sign boards I wrote about yesterday. If that's how they are thinking, they haven't thought hard enough. And I pray  that Air Traffic Controllers don't try to get away with the kind of false and fatuous communications you get on the signboards.

I walked past a car today with a sticker in the rear window "Back off! I'm sticking to the limit". Well, to me, that's dangerous thinking. I imagine someone hunched over, gripping the wheel and muttering, "I'm sticking to the limit" in defiance of all that is going on around him (it's certain to be a him).

When you drive, you should be watching the road and responding appropriately. The signs may say "40" but you may need to go 20. On a motorway, it is often safe to go 80 or 90 and to help keep traffic moving, you should. The government knows that but pretends not to. On a motorway, you create a hazard if you drive at an inappropriately low speed. The government knows that too.

I don't think I am a very good driver, though in 40 years driving in the UK I have never been prosecuted  or picked up any penalty points. But I do check my tires and stop when I am tired. And I watch the road.



No comments:

Post a Comment