I’ve just dis­cov­ered how lit­tle I know about driv­ing dan­gers

The West Australian - - PAGE 13 -

We’ve all heard our mother or fa­ther’s voice from the pas­sen­ger seat of the car scream­ing about “hands at 10 and two” or “turn your bloody phone off”.

But like many young drivers, I have al­ways said “just let me drive, she’ll be right”. Af­ter all, when you are in your late teens or 20s, you know it all.

Well, much to my hor­ror and em­bar­rass­ment, an ex­pe­ri­ence last week has taught me it re­ally won’t be right.

I’ve just had a go on a driv­ing sim­u­la­tor to find out how us­ing a mo­bile phone af­fects my driv­ing.

Set­ting off on the sim­u­la­tor, I

was cruis­ing along coun­try roads and merg­ing on to the high­way with ease.

But then I took my phone out and tested tex­ting while driv­ing. I did all right on the back roads, just slow a lit­tle around the bends and tak­ing a glimpse at the phone ev­ery now and again.

My con­fi­dence was pretty high at this point, so I came to the high­way merge point, flicked on my in­di­ca­tor — and nearly got cleaned up by the back end of a semi­trailer.

When the brakes stopped screech­ing, I merged into the lane, but I was rat­tled. So rat­tled in fact that I cut off the old lady in the car be­hind me.

Once I got go­ing again, I de­cided to see if I could make a phone call and com­pletely missed my turn-off. This is where things went from bad to down­right lethal.

I restarted on the high­way, but ended the call, de­ter­mined to get my con­fi­dence back to where I started.

No sooner had I left the high­way than I over-cor­rected on a bend and spun out on both sides of the verge, fi­nally com­ing to a halt on the grass.

Now, I can only imag­ine what that would have felt like in a real car. I got out of the sim­u­la­tor’s driver’s seat feel­ing sorry for my­self and a tad em­bar­rassed, but had that been a real car, I may not have walked away at all.

Now, I’m not say­ing that I drive around us­ing my phone all the time but, if we’re hon­est, we all have some cheeky mo­ments. We can’t just con­sider the act of look­ing at the phone.

I had my most sig­nif­i­cant crash af­ter putting the phone away and try­ing to re­fo­cus on driv­ing. But that split sec­ond of not think­ing about what I was see­ing or do­ing was enough to end my journey.

A to­tal of 160 peo­ple died on WA roads last year, 99 of those on re­gional roads, with a high num­ber of these in the Wheat­belt where I grew up.

I can say ve­he­mently that even a quick call or text isn’t worth the risk. Take it from a young man who now knows he re­ally doesn’t know it all.


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