Stepping back from oneself

In Newsletter Editorial5 MinutesBy Gavin MyersSeptember 1, 2023

Yesterday, I took my car for a WOF – a simple obligation anyone with a road-registered vehicle will be familiar with, and with a rego the least the law requires of us to continue driving them legally. You don’t even have to change your vehicle’s oil if you don’t want to – just ensure the basic standards are maintained so you can operate it safely.

Just after 3pm, I left home to go to the testing station. Afternoon rush hour had just begun to pick up, and there was the expected queue of traffic down one of the side streets near my home that leads to an intersection with a main thoroughfare. As the street runs through a semi-commercial area, vehicles are always parked on both sides of it. Motorists heading to the thoroughfare line up until the road widens near the intersection, allowing them to move into either the left or right turning lane.

As I inched my way forward, I was staggered at how many drivers pulled out of the queue – or didn’t even bother to join it – and accelerated down the oncoming lane to get to the right-turn lane, some even cheekily turning left. What bothered me wasn’t whether passing an entire queue is legal (the road code is not explicit) but whether it is wise. A pedestrian stepping out to their car or someone exiting a driveway through a gap in the queue may not expect a vehicle in the right-hand lane to approach from that direction. Yes, the onus is on them to check – but all the ingredients are there for a nasty coming-together.

WOF done, and the car deemed fit for use for another year, I headed home in peak rush hour. As I drove along that main thoroughfare back to that intersection near home, I noticed the police pulling over cars from the oncoming lane. Later, mentioning this to my better half, I was told there had been frequent complaints on the local Facebook pages about the police pulling over cars for WOF and rego checks during peak times.

It doesn’t take much to understand the arguments for and against from the perspectives of the cops and the motorist who just wants to get home. I’ve made my feelings on this clear before – the police being out there checking and enforcing the law is always good; it sends the right message and needs to happen regularly.

For the rest of the time, though, the responsibility is our own. Much like we’re obliged to have our vehicles deemed fit, we’re obliged to follow the road code, exercise common sense and take every practicable step not to put ourselves and other road users at risk. For example, passing a queue of traffic on the opposing lane may be technically acceptable, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sensible approach to beating the traffic. And sneaking a left-hand turn from a right-turn lane definitely isn’t.

I like to think most motorists are risk-averse and sensible. But taking a broader view of some actions on the road – increasingly arrogant and inconsiderate – makes me think many drivers need to step back from themselves, look inward and administer a personal WOF of sorts. I’ll freely admit my driving record isn’t blemish-free – people in glass houses and all that – but I’ve long realised a bit of self-awareness, common sense and courtesy go a long way.

After all, once we become licensed drivers, there’s no yearly inspection to ensure we keep ourselves up to standard.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers