My friend Ray alerted me to a report that the State of New York is about to pass a law requiring prospective drivers to take a bike safety course before they can get their license. It doesn’t just include bikes, but pedestrians, skateboarders and scooters as well. This is a great idea because bikes, pedestrians, skateboarders and scooters are no match for a motor vehicle when there’s a collision. They all lose and the consequences can be deadly. Cyclists are often outraged whenever there’s an incident where a cyclist is struck by a motor vehicle, citing lack of enforcement of traffic laws when the accident involves a cyclist. I suspect that drivers in general are cited less frequently when they operate their vehicles in a reckless manner and have an accident, but I don’t have any statistics to back this up, so let’s just chalk it off to being my opinion and nothing more. This report does, however, remind me of a topic I’ve been meaning to post about for a few weeks now.
I recently completed a driver’s safety course in the State of Texas. Like many of us, I feel pretty confident that I know the rules of road and consider myself to be a pretty safe driver. I have to admit, I was surprised by the amount of content included in my recent course that was new to me. I was also pleasantly surprised to find a chapter dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian safety. According to the course, motorists must treat cyclists as if they were just like other cars on the road and that the cyclists had a right to be there and as such, had to obey the same traffic laws as the motorists. It went on to say that motorists had to take special care when near cyclists because a collision would result in serious injury for the cyclist. It also said motorists should leave safe passing room and avoid sharp turns that threaten the safety of the cyclist.
The overriding theme throughout this course was the fact that driving attitudes had a significant impact on how safely we operate our motor vehicles. Anticipating potential problems often leads to avoiding these issues altogether. I really liked this aspect of the course because it forced me to think about various driving situations and how I could alter the outcome by simply anticipating a problem and eliminating it by changing my attitude about the situation. In the end, it doesn’t really matter who’s right and who’s wrong, if we all were a little more considerate to others while driving, many accidents could be avoided. This includes focusing more of our attention to the task of driving, acting in a more predictable manner and leaving room for others to avoid trouble as well. This doesn’t guarantee my safety, but I’m hoping it increases my odd of avoiding serious injury. I’m sure I’ll still run into an uneducated motorist ever once in a while where, no matter how much consideration I’m offering, they will go out of their way to endanger me with their reckless actions. There’s not much I can do about this, except encourage them to take one of these driver’s safety courses.
While I am encouraged by the approach the Texas Department of Public Safety has taken, I’d like to see them take it a step further by requiring all drivers to take a driver’s safety course every time they renew their license (about once every 10 years) as well as make this part of the standard curriculum for new drivers. Traffic laws change over time and so do traffic conditions. What harm would it do to raise awareness every few years by requiring a refresher safety course. These days it’s pretty easy to do this online. The cost could be rolled into the renewal fee. I think it gives the Texas DPS an opportunity to raise awareness to safety issues and how best to address them. I know I’m probably going out on a limb here, but if even one serious injury or death is avoided, why not? What are your thoughts on the matter?