These days driving seems like a rite of passage, it seems that as soon as you turn 16 you go and get your L’s and start clocking up as many hours as you can so that by the time you turn 17 you can sit the driving test.
I will admit this was an attitude that I had myself. I thought I’m old enough now, it’s my turn to get my licence, and it’s my right.
However this is not the case, having a drivers licence is a privilege not a right, and I had to learn this the hard way. The way that I was taught this lesson was rather easy one compared to some of the stories I have been told.
So I’ll tell you a little more about me. On my 16th birthday I took myself down to the RTA and sat the L’s test, I passed and you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. The very next day I hassled my parents to take me driving. It was that first driving lesson that made me feel empowered, I could already imagine the freedom I would have once I had my own licence and car. On weekends my parents couldn’t keep me away from the driver’s seat after that, anywhere they would need to go I would go to so that I could drive. Finally the time came that I could go for my P’s, and once again the closest possible day I could get them I was down at the RTA sitting the test. I was so nervous and excited at the same time, and once again when I passed you couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.
I had an attitude towards driving, I like to call it defensive when I needed to be. I have now learnt that this was completely the wrong attitude to have. I would speed but never more than 10km/h over the posted speed limit. My thoughts were “I’m safe I have a good reaction time and know how to handle my car”. This was completely the wrong attitude to have. You are not the only one on the road and you have to take into account everyone from cars, bicycles, motorbikes and pedestrians. I thought I was a safe driver and I didn’t endanger anyone else’s life with my driving.
However three years into having my licence, by this time I had gotten my full licence I decided to speed one night on my way home from work. I use the term decided because this was no accident, or slight slip of my foot to press harder on the accelerator, it was a lapse in judgement, but it was my decision.
I was travelling so fast that I didn’t even take my eyes off the road to check my speed, it was out of the corner of my eye that I saw the highway patrol car sitting ahead, I hit the brakes as hard as I could and kept the car in a straight line but it was too late, he caught me, I was breaking the law and not only that I now know I was endangering my life and everyone else’s life on the road.
As soon as I saw those red and blue flashing lights my heart sank, I knew I had made a mistake but the severity of my mistake hadn’t sunk in yet. The police officer said he had caught me doing 123km/h in an 80km/h zone, that’s 43km/h over the speed limit. I couldn’t speak, I was just in shock. My licence was suspended for two months and it was that two months off the road that changed my whole attitude towards driving.
I had lost my independence, I had to rely on friends, family and work colleagues to get me too and from work and uni as well as if I wanted to go out, I felt like the biggest burden on them all.
My story is one of the good ones, there are so many out there that involve people losing their lives, and I am so thankful that I learnt my lesson the ‘easy way’.
Dangerous driving may seem cool and exciting but there is a time and a place for it. There are specifically designed race tracks for that type of driving and the roads are not that place. It will have bad consequences, you may be lucky like me and only lose your licence but in most instances this is not what happens. People’s lives are forever changed by dangerous driving and not in a good way. Driving is not a right but a privilege and do not abuse that privilege as there are some pretty heavy consequences.