Regarding motor vehicle accidents in Geraldton and the safety of our roads

As I was driving home today (Tuesday Nov 4 2014) south along the NWCH past Shell, I saw a green ute go to pull out of the service station's driveway. The driver was turning right, and there was a large semi trailer parked at the driveway, completely blocking the view of the ute. 

Despite the obvious inability to see any cars that would drive up past the truck, the driver decided to pull out and try his luck. 

As I watched this happen I saw a car approaching that would not have been able to see the green ute. I quickly put my brakes on and pulled to the left, bracing for impact. 

Fortunately the oncoming car swerved far enough and dodged the green ute, and I breathed a sigh of relief. 

Why on earth would that ute driver have thought it was ok to pull out when he couldn't see what was there?

About two weeks ago, I was heading North toward Bunnings along the same lovely highway, in the right hand lane. 

A four wheel drive on a side street on the left was turning left onto the highway. 

No big deal, she has plenty of room, I thought. 

But she decided to go into the right hand lane. My lane. 

I swerved right a little, but there was nowhere to go without having a head on collision with oncoming traffic. I hit the horn to wake the woman up and get her out of my lane. 

She swerved back right and I lived to die another day. 

She pulled in to Bunnings and I followed her and approached her vehicle. I'm not sure what I was hoping to achieve, perhaps point out that she might have killed myself and my four year old child. She was apologetic and said she see me. I drove off, grateful to not be in an ambulance or a hearse. 

Every week, Everything Geraldton gets multiple reports of vehicle accidents, and it's always gut wrenching when a major injury or fatality happens. Trust me, it's no pleasure to report the news when there's a tragedy. Everything Geraldton does not have a "page view" revenue model like other websites, so we don't make extra money when there's a flood of web traffic following a crisis. And I'm grateful for that. 

But I have been scratching my head as to why certain locations seem to continually have vehicle incidents. 

Chapman Rd in front of Northgate (west side) seems to always attract accidents, despite a recent speed reduction. 

The NWC highway from Shell to Bunnings is horrible... I've witnessed so many accidents along there it's ridiculous. 

The 'S' bend on the Brand Hwy is expected to be realigned in the future because of vehicle accidents on a reasonably regular basis. 

The telephone pole near the Art Gallery gets a lot of flack for being so close to the road, especially after a van collided into it in November. 

I drive all of these roads very often, and it appears there's nothing tricky about them. Having lived in Perth and handled much worse traffic than any of these locations could ever offer, plus driving regularly through the ridiculous streets of Brisbane and Sydney, one would think our local streets could be handled with ease. 

- The NWC Hwy stretch:

It's a straight road. If there's a car coming, don't pull out. If you can't see if there's a car coming, don't pull out. If a car stops in front of you, make sure you're far enough back so you can stop too. Not hard. 

- Chapman Rd:

If you're pulling out of Northgate's car park, and you can't see properly, don't pull out. Or turn left if you're not comfortable crossing four lanes of traffic. Don't take a chance. It's not hard. 

- S Bend:

There's nothing tricky about this road. It's a bend. Then it's straight. Then it's a bend. It used to be 110kmh with an "advisory" to slow down to 90. Now I believe it is speed limited at 90kmh. If you obey the sign, the road feels rather slow, and not very dangerous at all. 

- The phone pole near the Art Gallery:

What the reporting on the incident last November failed to mention, was the driver who collided with the pole (collided at speed, not clipped with the mirror) had actually just pulled out of Maccas and was eating an ice-cream cone. Maybe the pole is a bit close to the road, but maybe it stopped a pedestrian from being cleaned up by a distracted driver.

Ranting to our friends on Facebook about how people just need to "pay attention" or something to that effect does nothing. 

We ALL know we need to pay attention. And if we're all honest with ourselves, we've all done dumb things on the road when we've lost focus for a split second. 

We've all been lost in thought for a few moments and pulled out on someone. Or maybe gone through a red light when only the turning traffic had a green. Or maybe you've had a car or motorbike in the blind spot created by your A-Pillar and narrowly missed a tragedy. 

Or maybe you're a perfect driver and can sit on high and judge everyone else without hypocrisy. 

But for the rest of us, the following might be of interest.

There's really not much traffic here, and the roads are all pretty good compared to any other city. 

There's more days of sunshine in Geraldton than the Gold Coast or the Sunshine Coast, so we don't have to worry about bad weather driving much at all. Many of us have never SEEN snow let alone driven in it. 

We know the roads we're going to drive on like the back of our hands. If something is more than 8 minutes away we seriously debate whether it's worth going. And because we know the roads so well, we're in auto pilot most of the time. 

And despite the wonderful feeling criticising the state and local governments gives us, a lot of public campaigning has lead to continued action to improve the quality and safety of our roads over the last two decades. The roads are, generally speaking, safer than they used to be. Remember when 60km/h in residential zones was the limit? Now if someone does 65 past my house I think life imprisonment is a reasonable option for them. 

When you add all these factors together, what you get is a feeling of comfort and ease when you're driving on Geraldton roads, 99% of the time. 

An interesting study published in 2010 showed most Americans mistakenly believed winter was a more dangerous time to be driving. Seems logical, given the inclement weather makes visibility and stopping harder. But it turns out the opposite is the case. Summer is more dangerous because people have let their guard down then. During winter they were extra careful. 

"Lighter traffic and pleasant scenery on rural roads can lull drivers into a false sense of security. This can lead to motorists driving at unsafe speeds, as well as being distracted, fatigued, unbelted or impaired while driving, all of which increase the likelihood of a crash."

Perhaps because 99% of the time driving on our roads isn't stressful relative to more congested places, we're not on our guard as we should be.

Driverless cars are on their way, and the roads will be a much safer place when they arrive. But until that day, we all need to redouble our efforts to pay attention on the roads.