Thu, Dec 07, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Driving and civil society

By Kevin James

I am a Canadian and have been driving in Canada and Taiwan for more than 13 years. I would like to comment on Wang Wen-chen's (王文誠 ) article ("Civil society key to safer freeways," Dec. 4, page 8).

I agree with Wang that creating a civil society is the key to safer freeways. I would also like to make a suggestion to help create a society that places greater emphasis on morals and values.

During my five years in Taiwan, I've had the "pleasure" of accompanying many Taiwanese drivers. It's always an experience. I keep thinking to myself as they swerve in and out of traffic or drive like a grandmother: "What the hell are they doing?" or "Am I going to die?"

Out of curiosity, I have asked my friends about their driving exam and the process for getting a license here.

They all tell me practically the same thing: they went to a driving school for one month and practiced on a driving course just like the one the driving test is held on at the Ministry of Transportation. At the schools they received just two hours of driving time on the road.

This amazes me, because it tells me that they just learned how to pass the driving test without really learning any driving or road safety skills. They didn't learn to tell the difference between correct and incorrect driving behavior or how to act on the road during critical situations.

In Canada, I first had to take a written test to get my learner's permit and then I went to the Young Drivers of Canada driving school.

Before I ever got behind the wheel I spent time in a classroom learning the theory and morality of driving a car, learning to think about the other drivers on the road and learning the consequences of my actions.

This class lasted for around 15 to 20 hours, with a written test afterwards.

After the class, I spent another 20 to 25 hours driving a car on the roads and freeways with a skilled instructor who helped me put into practice the skills I learned in class.

For example, he taught me things such as how to use an on-ramp to enter the freeway: you accelerate your vehicle to the speed of traffic and then merge in. You do this because it does not cause other drivers to stop abruptly or swerve to change lanes, which could lead to a fatal accident.

Those who know of Young Drivers of Canada know that it is one of the more expensive driving schools in the country, but those who attend are offered less expensive insurance rates than those who don't.

In Taiwanese society, which places such high value on educating the young, I think the average family would want their sons or daughters to be taught the best skills possible, whether on or off the road.

I believe it would be an excellent idea for the nation's insurance companies to get together with the driving schools and parents to offer quality instruction to young drivers.

By doing this, we will see the development of a civil society with better morals, values and good driving skills.

Kevin James

Tainan

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