In 2015, James Stock - a former reckless driver residing in Cheshire - spent Christmas in prison. He was the first person in the United Kingdom prosecuted using dashcam footage. James almost ended the lives of two innocent drivers due to careless overtaking.
Thanks to favorable community policing laws, anyone can purchase a dashcam without requiring a permit. An anonymous driver captured shocking dashcam footage of an irresponsible, intoxicated mother losing control of her speeding vehicle with her 19-month-old child trapped inside. The availability of the dashcam has also made it easier to settle insurance claims, providing real-life footage of incidents to support cases.
Is road etiquette becoming obsolete?
According to Lease Car’s recent road poll, a staggering 70 percent of British drivers believe that road etiquette has all but disappeared in the past decade. Each year, thousands of new drivers join the traffic stream, filled with highly irritable drivers who are quick to insult or endanger anyone who “crosses their line”. In order to survive on the roads, many of these novices adopt a nasty demeanor, promoting a culture of angry drivers.
Declining road etiquette gives room for road rage to thrive. A four-year-old boy from Cleveland, Ohio narrowly avoided death after an angry driver fired shots at his mother’s car.
8 ways technology has promoted a culture of uncouth motorists
1. Survival of the fastest
The advancement in engine power has lead to the production of faster motor vehicles. It’s not unusual to come across a family saloon car that can go from 0-100km/h in less than ten seconds. This advancement gives inconsiderate drivers an upper hand. Consider the young, stereotypical college student behind the wheel of a high-performance sports car.
Driving in front of this kind of driver is risky, because they’ll perform aggressive overtaking moves without giving advance signals. This may force you to swerve off the road to avoid their sports car colliding with your vehicle.
2. Parking spot-related confrontations
Picture the scene: you’ve just arrived at a busy mall and you’ve spotted an empty parking spot within a row of vehicles. Just as you’re about to make a turn, a speeding car whizzes past you and parks in your intended spot. To make it worse, the driver inside the car shows no remorse for their actions because they own a faster vehicle.
Many drivers have exchanged heated words, or even got into a fight due to this kind of arrogant behavior. Some uncouth motorists will even take parking spots reserved for the disabled.
3. Increasing noise pollution
Sound is an important aspect of driving. It enables drivers to warn other motorists about to cut in right in front of them. Car horns also help drivers warn pedestrians who are about to recklessly cross the road. You can also hoot several times to alert other drivers of a robbery in progress.
Pop culture has encouraged drivers to install annoying car horns just for the sake of disturbing the peace. These irritating horns are real health hazards, especially to individuals who are prone to heart attacks. The deafening noise may rupture eardrums if the victim happens to be standing too close to the car.
4. Aggressive acts of intimidation
Bull bars, push bumpers, or killer grills are synonymous with road bullies. The mere sight of this menacing grill of steel sticking out like fangs can send many a driver swerving off the road. Some countries even forbid motorists from attaching bull bars to their vehicles, because they do more harm than good.
Road bullies derive pleasure in intimidating motorists driving in front of them and while overtaking. Most drivers quickly give way once they spot a fast approaching bull bar in their side mirrors. In a two-way road, any vehicle approaching from the opposite lane will have to swerve off the road to avoid a nasty head-on collision.
5. Offensive car registration plates
The affordability of metalwork machinery enables high-end garages to create customized number plates for clients. Car owners fix customized number plates to publicly display their vehicle’s nickname, or their unwavering support for their favorite sports team or loved ones. It’s not illegal to own a customized car registration plate. However, it becomes unlawful if the driver intentionally prints insults or controversial references that are likely to offend some people.
Offensive plates that bear explicit sexual connotations or comments that demean other people’s race, religious beliefs, sexuality or gender identity are illegal. Britain’s Department and Vehicle Licensing Agency is set to revoke 300 offensive license plates by the end of 2017.
It’s advisable to do a little research before purchasing a customized number plate.
6. Using the GPS as a scapegoat for making illegal moves
Before Google Maps became widely available, motor vehicle GPS systems misled drivers on several occasions. The navigation system relied on old maps which brought about much confusion. Sometimes the voice would instruct the driver to take a right turn only for them to end up in the wrong lane.
Despite major improvements in navigation systems, some drivers deliberately switch to the wrong lane or make illegal turns, then blame their GPS. In the event of an accident, such drivers will deny any wrongdoing even if there are road signs indicating incoming lanes.
7. Blaming accidents on traffic lights
Traffic lights are a common frustration shared by motorists all over the world, especially with signals in many towns and cities regularly dropping out of sync, causing more traffic than they ease. The red light can seem to take forever to switch, even though the other lanes have cleared up. However, this seemingly unnecessary delay is intended to ensure that traffic flows freely in all directions.
Once the light turns orange, some drivers experience a rising urge to speed off. This impatience causes them to bump into vehicles in front of them even before amber transitions into green. The uncouth driver then goes on a verbal tirade, accusing the victim of hesitating at the green light.
8. Taking photos and videos of accident scenes
Everyone fears road accidents. It’s ironic that some motorists will stop at horrific accident scenes, take out their smartphones and start snapping away. These cold-hearted drivers have been witnessed yelling at other motorists hooting behind their car. Police in Tukwila City have had a hard time dealing with crash investigations due to rude drivers impeding the efforts of emergency medical personnel.
How can technology restore road etiquette?
The use of dashcams and live traffic cameras has lightened police work in many ways. However, this technology still fails to address one crucial challenge - prevention is always better than cure. Since 80-90% of traffic accidents are caused by errors in judgment, drivers need a reliable mechanism to prevent them from implementing poor decisions.
Below are some rational solutions to curbing menacing drivers on the road.
1. Enforcing black boxes on every motor vehicle
A telematics black box is a device that records a car’s speed, duration spent on the road, the local time and a motorist’s driving habits. This smartphone-sized device transmits real-time data to online servers owned by insurance companies. Drivers with tainted records usually pay higher premiums for the same insurance plan, compared to motorists with clean slates.
Insurance companies encourage high-risk drivers to purchase a black box insurance plan. The aim of this plan is to display positive changes in the driving habits of formerly irresponsible motorists. If the driver sustains their positive behavior for a set period, the insurance company rewards them with reduced premiums.
If the government enforces this black box policy, drivers will be more wary of their habits.
2. Hasten the development of driverless cars
A driverless car relies on cameras and sensors to travel within specified speed limits and keep a safe distance from other vehicles. Scientists hype this driving model as the safest means of road transport, because it transcends faulty human judgment. In this situation, a drunk driver cannot pose any danger to motorists because the automated vehicle will take control.
Another advantage of driverless cars is they prevent drivers from engaging in risky behavior. It’s impossible for the driver to bypass the vehicle’s intelligence system and perform aggressive overtaking maneuvers.
Summing it up
Perhaps technology isn’t the real culprit, because it simply serves as a means to an end. Uncouth drivers wrongly use technology to intimidate other motorists since such offenses come with low-cost fines. However, no good ever comes out of being disrespectful to fellow motorists.
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