The other day I took a ride with friend whose car is equipped with one of those fancy lane-departure warning systems. That’s the gizmo that sounds a warning and steers your car back into its lane if you, say, cross the center line and travel into oncoming traffic.
During the course of a five minute drive, the system engaged four times.
My friend, an otherwise responsible and intelligent sort of fellow, seemed unfazed.
The experience left me puzzled.
I started looking into some of the research about driving and was surprised to learn that, according to a recent poll, most Canadian drivers rate themselves as having above average skills – about 92 per cent.
Even a rudimentary understanding of math tells you that a lot of those people are suffering from what psychologists call illusory superiority.
On a brighter note, in BC, only about three quarters of drivers feel that they are above average drivers.
The math is still problematic.
The truth is that there are a whole lot of folks out there who are kidding themselves about their driving skill. I see it every day as I drive around Greater Victoria.
I’m not sure why an inordinate number of drivers tailgate, for example.
Perhaps they feel that Newton’s first law of motion doesn’t apply to their Dodge Ram pickup or maybe they’ve watched too many insipid super hero movies and now believe that their own reflexes will allow them to stop instantaneously should the car in front of them hit the brakes.
In either case, the fact that on Vancouver Island there is about one accident a minute should be enough to tell them that, just maybe, they should back the heck off.
But they don’t.
I recently read an opinion piece from a well-known commentator who bemoaned the fact that drivers today tend to stray into other lanes, even crossing the solid middle line at times. This fellow, based in California, could just as easily have been talking about Greater Victoria where, it seems, lane markers have become suggestions rather than firm delineations of where you can drive.
The popular wisdom is that this lane straying behaviour is the result of cellphones and distracted driving. That may be true in part, but let’s not just blame cellphones.
I’ve seen folks driving with a coffee cup in one hand and a doughnut in the other while a Pomeranian sits on their lap.And then there are roundabouts.
Today’s drivers can’t seem to master a traffic device that two convertible driving antagonists in gorilla suits managed in that Pink Panther movie. Nearly every morning I see drivers approaching roundabouts with the same expression you’d expect from a goat staring at a new fence.
There’s a story out there about how the first auto accident in North America occurred in Ohio in 1895. The story goes that there were only two cars in town and they somehow managed to run into one another. Now that’s probably an urban legend, but somehow it rings true. Some people just can’t drive.
That’s why the advent of self driving cars can’t come fast enough as far as I’m concerned.
When they arrive, we might think about laws that would force everyone caught doing something stupid behind the wheel into one of those mechanical wonders.
I could be wrong, but I figure that within a year I might be the only human driver left in Victoria.
I am, after all, a better than average driver.
Tim Collins is a Sooke News Mirror reporter.