Monday, June 29, 2009

Kids in Cars

Its not often i write about depressing issues such as death, and the road toll, but last weekend, a group of teenagers got into a car and they never managed to get out. It was reported in the newspapers that speed played a significant part in their demise. A day before that horrific crash, a21 year old was luckily pulled over for exceeding the speed limit by a whopping 131 kmph.

A radio broadcaster was discussing these events this morning, seeking answers to questions such as "why do young drivers speed?" , "why aren't the TAC's messages(Drink and drive our a bloody idiot/arrive-alive/speed-kills) making a noticable difference to the road toll" , "what can we do to lower the road toll?" etc.

He sought far and wide for reasons, explanations and answers, but amongst his callers, i don't think he ever asked a driver between the ages of 16-25. Although it would seem quite pertinant to ask the so called "target group" for answers to the aforementioned questions, the general consensous amongst the so-called "older and wiser" is that they know what's best, and that they know what/when and why youngsters behave as they do. "I was once your age" they'd claim, but surely things have changed over the years, man-kind has progressed, Darwin called it evolution, some might call it regression(the fact that we are killing ourselves by abusing machines we created is ironic, like a plot-line out of the Matrix??)

Call it what you may, but the cold fact is that youngs drivers are putting themselves, and their passenger friends in dangerous, life threatening situations by driving under the influence of alcohol and /or drugs, and driving at excessive speeds. The preceeding situations that young adults find themselves in have hardly changed in over 50 years. Alcohol has always been an instrument of social cohesion and celebration. Responsible consumption of alcohol has always been a problem for modern western society. Thousands of people across many age groups have struggled to limit their alcohol intake to that which is considered a safe and responsible level.

Public figures have been shamed in the media for acting irresposibly after having more than one too many drinks. The problem is alomost endemic, and reversing the nations' drinking culture will no doubt help reduce the number of deaths related to alcohol abuse.

The "speeding culture" of many young Australian's is with out doubt an age related problem. Anyone who says otherwise is talking nonsense. It's not generational, its not a sign of the times, its prely age-related. History shows that ever since cars where affordable, the number of deaths amongst young adults where higher than the rest of the population. Young adults are by nature impatient, hurried and have more demands on their time than ever before. Driving fast is without doubt the simplest solution to getting to their destination faster.

While i don't condone such behaviour, i undersand it, and those seeking to have a positive impact upon the problem must do so quickly , or else risk missing the problem completely. Why young adults are driven ( forgive the pun) to speed from one destination to another is another underlying "fault" of the human condition. Its well known that young-adults think of themselves as invincable, reckless levels of over-confidence, mis-placed faith in their own abilities, both to drive and to consume alcohol turn a self reliant, self-confident, headstrong young adult into a dangerous liability on the roads.

A few years back, a spate of high-school shootings and classroom violence sparked an international debate over how absorbant children and young-adults are to violent video-games, music, tv-programming and the coverage of violent incidents by journalistsin the news-media.
Strangely, the interconnected issue of how absorbent young adults are to car racing games such as Gran Turesmo, Need for Speed etc etc, and movies such as Fast and the Furious, Gone in 60 Seconds etc etc .

In my humble opinion, the number of young adults, boys in particular, who are attracted to enourmously powerful cars, with exorbitantly priced customizations, which they showcase proudly to their friends at illegal, impromtu meetings has increased ever since the turn of the century. No coincedence I think, since 2001s premier of The Fast and the Furious , more and more action movies premised around street-racing have enjoyed box-office success.

Such cultures have to be firmly, but gently removed from the mainstream media, because driving them "underground" will only lead to the mess experienced overseas, a situation no well-wishing policy maker wants.

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