How old are you and where were you when you got your driver's license?
I'm 31 years old and I grew up in a small town on the plains of Colorado. I got my drivers license after taking driver's ed in high school and passing a DMV test.
It was 1993. At the time, I only knew one or two people who had a cellphone. They hardly ever used them because minutes were very expensive. There was no such thing as texting. The town I lived in had no bike lanes, no roundabouts and GPS didn't exist. My first car with Anti-lock brakes was a 2001.
In the 16 years since I've had my license, I've never had another test. I've never had a refresh of the information I was taught in that one high school class. Most of my driver education since then has been handed to me as a carbon copy of a ticket from a cop.
Every year in America, 43,000 people die in automobile crashes. So on average, 118 people will die today. 1 or 2 will be a cyclist, and 11 of them will be pedestrians.
There are freak accidents, but I don't believe 43,000 people per year are dying in 'freak' accidents.
The cycling community is seeing a revolution in utility cycling. People are commuting more and more. Injuries and accidents are also on the rise. The motivation of the cycling community is to increase cyclist education and to encourage more people to ride. Every day my city planners are making more and more efforts to facilitate cycling. The problem is that the people they are educating don't have the ability to kill or injure others with their mistakes.
I have yet to hear a single proposal to continue the education of the people behind the wheel.
In this country you can go from 16 to 72, and take exactly one driving test. America had 48 states when your average 70 year old took his last driver's test.
A private pilot in this country must take refresher courses every couple years and log a specific number of hours to 'stay current' on technologies and practices in aviation. Last year, there were 495 deaths due to aircraft crashes in America. That's all aviation, commercial and private. Training goes a long way.
The auto industry has done mountains of work to make cars safer. They can handle 80 mile per hour crashes where pretty much the entire interior of the vehicle inflates to cushion the driver. Very few of those features enhance the safety of those outside the car.
As a result people end up driving when they otherwise wouldn't because the only safe place on the streets becomes one encased in crumple zones and airbags.
Our society takes for granted that we all have an inalienable right to accelerate 2000 pounds of steel to lethal velocities in order to obtain groceries. They're also starting to believe they have the right to talk, eat, text, or apply makeup while doing it.
If you want to save lives, start with the brains behind the wheel. Educate drivers. Bring them up to speed on how the bike lane works and who has what right of way, when. Make sure everyone is on the same page about the same law. A majority of cyclists are drivers too, so you'll get everyone clear on the law in a way that can't be disputed.
Be sure they know the laws about texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving. Make sure they take the time to learn about the football field of road surface they just missed looking at their GPS on the interstate.
Drivers have to renew their license every 10 years. The only part of that that can be called a 'test' is the eye exam. We should be testing drivers at least in written form. We should widely distribute well written materials that they would need to read and understand before they are able to pass that test. Both materials should be updated yearly to stay current with local traffic law and to improve their effectiveness. It's really not that much to ask. It's just an extension of the testing we're giving anyway.
Do that, and we directly impact the lives of 2 cyclists, 11 pedestrians and the 118 people that will die today in car crashes.