Get the Driving School Industry Regulated PLEASE!

From: Pat Allen [mailto:pat@saidinational.org]
Sent: 09 February 2014 06:18 PM
To: ‘Wendy Watson’
A very long list of authorities was cc’d in the hope of making some progress with regulating the driving school industry.

Subject: RE: Tomorrow’s road safety meeting at Emperor’s Palace

 

Dear Wendy,

I hope you are keeping very well. Howard Dembovsky forwarded this email to me. (I think you accidentally overlooked sending it to me as you tried to include every possible person.)

Thank you for your expressed support for me as National President of SAIDI. It is much appreciated.

I am very committed to driver training. I am not alone. SAIDI Members have shown their commitment for 38 years!

In my position, I constantly try to generate some interest in regulating the Driving School Industry, but it is always on the back-burner! Just when we finally have hope that it will happen, not just by making stricter rules for legal instructors, but to stop the illegal ones, and help them to first become legal, then we encounter another delay. We are about to have elections etc. Wait until they are over. Dah-da-dah de dah!

  • I understand your frustration. It is hard to continue to fight for what one believes in, when it can seem as if one’s efforts go unappreciated.

 

  •  It is also very hard to keep tolerating the never-ending changes of authorities in the positions to make the essential changes too. We at SAIDI have fought that particular battle for almost 38 years now!

 

  • I guess, in the grand scheme of things, it is a short space of time, but we of course, realise that thousands, no, millions, of people have been sacrificed on our roads by our country’s leaders lack of taking decisive action. I cannot understand why nothing ever gets done!

 

  • Sadly, bad driving standards is a problem that won’t go away by ignoring it! It reminds me of an ex-pupil who took both hands off the steering wheel in Atterbury road, Pretoria, in very busy traffic, and flapped her hands up and down violently, and said, “What shall I do? What shall I do?” I reacted to her useless incompetent behaviour with outrage, like I would like to react to those who do not correct the situation by taking decisive action. Grab the steering wheel and do what must be done!

 

  • I see the newspaper headlines, and find it heart-breaking! Without playing on anyone’s emotions, I wonder if anyone genuinely cares enough to stop and think what it must feel like to lie with one’s face burning with skin ripped off and broken bones and teeth, on a tar road, with one’s body in agony, listening to tearing metal and seeing your world spin out of control while your car is slammed into, and rolled and wrecked before you mercifully pass out? While saying that, I must admit that the authorities are in a position I have never been in. Thank God I have never had to stand at the place where many people were killed, and be held accountable for it. I do not envy those who do! I cannot imagine the nightmares they must have.

 

  • Sometimes I can hear screams of pain in my imagination and dead bodies, including those of babies and mutilated children flung from vehicles. It is horrific! I find myself waking up thinking of road transport. I often dream about it all night. It consumes me, because I know I/We can make essential changes, but I/We are not being given sufficient opportunity or authority to do so!

 

  • Perhaps it is even harder for us as driving instructors, than for others, to endure the fumbling, half-hearted in-ept attempts of the Government to change the driving standards of our countrymen and women. I say that, knowing it will offend some, but let’s face it, who has really done anything of value  to change the situation in all these years? Do they even know how to address the problems on our roads? Howard Dembovsky said he wants to hear, “I have done,” not “I am going to do.” I agree, don’t you?

 

  • We at SAIDI have every reason to be cynical! I have 6 large plastic containers of Government promises made to SAIDI in the 38 years we have been sitting in meetings with so many people who have come and gone, leaving the situation exactly where they found it, which we have had to tolerate, yet still the carnage continues and driving instructors continue to train their students to a low standard as a general rule, as illegal and unqualified instructors. Our members struggle for work because of the thousands and thousands of unregistered “fly-by-night” instructors who have robbed registered instructors of their rightful income. There is so much sympathy for them! I cannot really understand why. Even when I was completely ignorant of this industry, I found out what  the legal requirements to qualify were and I had to do it before I could start to operate. Now, no-one cares – apparently not even those in authority!I have seen those same people elected as office bearers by Government authorities.

 

  • As driving instructors, we sit in vehicles, (in my case, which I can use as an example, from 7:30 to 18:30, for six days a week, for 35 years now), coaching each new pupil, of all ethnic groups, and genders and ages, training them from new drivers to highly competent, defensive, licenced drivers who are a credit to the country. We need to encourage every small effort they make, supporting nervous new drivers, restraining the few over-confident ones, disciplining badly-behaved ones, and occasionally declaring that some should not become drivers, while guiding them to be law-compliant. We breathe only when they dare to breathe, trying to stay calm and professional even if we have to grit our teeth at some of the things they do at times. We support them but have to endure the shockingly low standard of driving of the experienced drivers who bully them horribly, almost all the time.

 

  • When they are finally ready to be tested they often encounter examiners who bully them too, or misinterpret the K53 test standard to suit themselves.

 

  • One morning my learner driver stalled on an incline, like we all do when we start out, in a quiet neighbourhood, and a woman behind us screamed out of her window at me, “if you had any intelligence, you would have qualified to be something better than a driving instructor!” That is the general perception out there. Our contribution to the country in greatly under-valued! Yet, we can actually make such a difference, given the opportunity.

 

  • As a matter of interest, I was asked to do a defensive driving assessment the other day with a Mayor’s chauffeur. Wendy, I made hand-written notes of his driving errors for two and a half hours. I found four foolscap pages of errors, such as pulling off in 2nd gear from every single stop street and green traffic signal. In my 180cc Turbo charged A-class Mercedes, we could barely move across intersections with fast traffic coming at us from the sides! It was terrifying. He broke the speed limit over and over again. He crossed channelizing lines, failed to stop at stop streets and made countless errors, such as never once checking a blind spot, driving terribly close to other vehicles, never checking a single intersection before entering them – this while transporting the MAYOR! (It would be unprofessional to mention where he comes from), in a big black Mercedes, and his driving standard is so low! He even turned and posed for a photograph while travelling on the N1 at 120 kms per hour, close behind another vehicle. I had asked if I could take a photograph of him, but I meant to do it while he was facing the front and driving. He was quite happy to pose and I have the photograph to prove it. He is a very likeable, pleasant man, but needs defensive training, to which he agreed. However, they have not continued with my recommendations. All they seem to have wanted is a certificate of attendance. Incidentally, he lost his own vehicle recently when an oncoming vehicle blinded him with bright lights, while overtaking another vehicle. He said he swerved left, only to be hit all down the right-hand side of the vehicle, as the oncoming vehicle cut between the car he was passing, and my client’s car. He said the windows locked up, so he had to break a window to escape as his car caught fire. As he fell to the ground, his car exploded. I am so frustrated because I can re-train him thoroughly, but they will not continue.

 

  • This is a matter of life and death – his or ours, while he gives such a bad impression in an official vehicle. I believe people in very visible positions in the Government should be driven by excellent drivers. They should set the example to all others. This does not happen. When we think of the Blue Light Brigade and poor Thomas Ferreira’s case, what a shocking indictment against arrogant people, totally disregarding basic safe driving standards.

 

  • Most South African drivers feel themselves to be above the law. In fact, when I take note of the driving standard of people (from all walks of life) I cannot stand the appallingly low level of driver training they must have received; and the bad attitudes displayed all the time. Law-compliant drivers are ridiculed, and belittled, even if they are driving 100% correctly, because everyone else considers their own driving standard to be acceptable while they break every law. We even watch the Police ignoring bad driving right in front of their eyes! It is a farce!

 

  • People think the skid pan stuff is advanced driving, but what about improving the basic standard of driving first and obeying the law 100%? To me, that is essential before we go on to the fancy stuff some people refer to as “Testosterone driving”, like handbrake turns on skid pans. They are admittedly lots of fun, but no sane driver should ever need to use them!

 

  • It feels as if I/We am being hamstrung by the Government all round and it makes me so frustrated! I can hear you feel the same. You have my sympathy. All we have had for 38 years is empty promises while we lose income attending endless spectacularly expensive meetings.

 

  • The problem we both face is that we have two disadvantages in South Africa. We are women, and we are white. Funnily enough, my classes love the training I give them, and tell me those two factors do NOT count. They are thrilled with the training they have received compared to what so many illegal instructors have done to them.

 

  • What we all need to realise is that the people dying are South Africans of every age, gender, interest group of people in South Africa all had mothers who raised them.

 

  • Gender and race should never come into our industry, but politics raises its ugly head, dividing us, while our people are dying and others are disabled. I have been so privileged to have re-taught paraplegics, and quadriplegics of all races to drive again after their injuries from crashes. They did not mind me being a white woman! They loved me and they loved the training I was able to give them. They are empowered, independent adults again and they feel wonderful about it. So do I!

 

  • It is time we stopped excluding experts in our various fields of proficiency, like yourself and many other dedicated people. This is the time to work together to really find solutions to this crisis in our country, and to pass laws to make the essential changes.

 

Best regards,

 

P.A. Allen