…but it’s driving me nuts.

Every Saturday morning I wake up with a sense of impending doom, because there’s one particular roundabout I have to negotiate where the collective ineptitude, aggression and downright stupidity of drivers on the roads of this state could put an end to my residence on this earth. I look myself in the mirror, slap myself and wonder if I’ll live to see Football Focus.

I can’t be the only one.

There are apparently 405,000 drivers on the roads whose ability to drive has not been confirmed by a formal test. I don’t know what proportion of the overall driving population this figure represents, but let’s say it’s 1 in 10. If 1 out of every 10 GPs had no qualifications, but practiced without impediment, there would be an outcry, yet hundreds of thousands of people are allowed out, unqualified, in charge of what can be a deadly instrument, and not too much is said about it. So as far as I’m concerned, anything to keep these people off the still disgraceful road system of this state is a welcome measure.

There are plans afoot, although I’m not holding my breath. An interesting thing about this report in the Indo about the plans to disallow people who fail their driving test from driving is its description of said plans as a ‘tougher new regime’.

When I think of regimes touts courts (can you say that?), I think of states run by Teodoro Obiang, Saddam Hussein etc. The use of the word ‘regime’ in common parlance normally indicates a situation where restrictions are placed on a perceived freedom. The basic meaning, that of a system of control, gets conflated with its contemporary meaning, with its connotations of mass executions in football stadiums, personality cults and the like. Talk in media of tax regimes and penalty points regimes… sorry, I’m bullshitting here.

Anyway, the point is that a brow-furrowingly obvious restriction, like keeping people who DON’T KNOW HOW TO DRIVE off the roads, is described as a constituent part of a regime, but not only a regime, but a newer and tougher one. I’m not picking on this particular journalist, because you hear this sort of stuff all the time. The most basic of measures is described as though it formed part of a system of repression, rather than something that preserves the right to feel safe and the right to not get killed.

You hear people from time to time in Ireland talking about how there ought not to be a need to legislate in all aspects of people’s public and personal behaviour, and that to do so infantilises people. And to a certain extent I’m inclined to agree. An excess of restrictive legislations just leads to more people behaving to the letter of the law, which is not really what the law ought to be for.

On matters such as driving, the ideal point for any citizen to reach is where he doesn’t actually need the law to dictate his or her behaviour, and thus complies with the law or a given regulation without even having to think about it because that is what is conducive to both his own good and the common good. But it is hard to see how this point can be reached without the law actually being there in the first place. If people were naturally inclined to act in the common interest, and not perturbed about killing themselves or others, they would call for a taxi after failing the test, rather than careening off down the M-50.

Update: there’s another report, on breakingnews.ie, with the headline ‘Motorists who fail driving tests to be put off road’. As far as I’m concerned, if you haven’t passed a driving test, you ain’t a motorist.

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