Occasionally you will hear a radio talk show on the topic of driving behaviour and quality of drivers. A few months ago, the one I heard was about the new trend to dash cameras. Yesterday, it was about distracted driving. To listen to the people calling in, the driving public is divided into two clear and very distinct camps, one made up of careless, aggressive, texting drivers who are constantly having accidents and the other made up by the people who have phoned in. These people are all excellent drivers and you would think, in listening to them, that they only get home safely every day because they are so good and can protect themselves from the bad drivers.
A quick sidebar on the subject of distracted driving; distracted is not a synonym for texting while driving. Looking in the glove box, tuning the radio, finding a hair brush that fell on the floor, unwrapping a drive- through sandwich, sipping and then spilling coffee; who hasn’t done some of these things. Looking in the mirror to talk to a back seat passenger , driving after a serious argument or worrying about an event or potential bad news all take our focus away from the task of driving.
The reality is that drivers cover the whole range of attitudes and abilities. There are a few people who really should not be out there, either because of an inability to stay focused or because of consistent bad behaviour. But they are not that common and if were only these two groups who caused accidents the accident rate would be not down by a lot.
The majority of drivers are competent and polite enough to pay attention to their driving to avoid problems and conflict on the road. A lot of accidents are a result of the actions of this group of conscientious drivers.
I don’t know how many decisions a driver makes in a 30 minute drive, but I expect it is in the hundreds. Over the course of months and years every driver makes thousands or tens of thousands of decisions. An outside distraction, the sun in your eyes, a wetter road than expected, an approaching car closer than first estimated or a yellow light at just the wrong time and the decision made or action taken is the wrong one. If there is a bit of room or the drivers around you are paying attention, as they usually are, no contact is made and no damage done. Hundreds of little miscalculations like this result in no issue.
The accident happens when that less than good move or decision coincides with a driver near you not paying attention, making their own simultaneous poor decision or simply unable to get out of the way.
There are truly bad drivers, and there are excellent drivers with very good judgment and situational awareness. Most of us however are just good drivers who get away with the odd poor decision most of the time.