Driving long distance on your own is testing in many ways. Whilst there is no greater feeling than being on the open road, the journey is long and trying on both the driver and the vehicle being driven.

As someone with very little knowledge of how cars work, who has just driven over 2000kms from Lake Macquarie to Cairns, I can attest to the fact that the drive can be extremely nerve wracking.

A revelation on the road

In fact, one day of my journey my petrol light went on when I had just passed a petrol station. Unfortunately the next three were “under renovation” and the one I found on Google was non existent, and only added to my stresses as I made my way back from my 2km detour to the Bruce Highway. In total, I was driving my car for over an hour with the petrol light on.

I’d like to think shouting “I LOVE YOU” and praising my car continuously with statements like ““You’ve always been the car for me, I will never think about selling you, you are the meaning of life” kept me safe. However, the truth is I was just lucky. I had no idea how the car even worked, let alone how many kilometres I could get out of an empty tank.

When I arrived at my destination, the Platypus Bushcamp in Finch Hatton, and told the owner the story, he asked me if I had been checking under the hood each day.

Of course my response was a blank look, which led to a pretty eye-opening discussion on the dangers of driving a vehicle long distance, especially when I didn’t understand how to check it was OK. The discussion also included a pretty frightening truth that if just one of my tyres didn’t have enough air, it could pop. Meaning I could easily end up in the middle of nowhere in a ditch if it popped whilst driving 100kms on the Bruce Highway.

This got me thinking… Why am I even able to operate such a heavy piece of machinery when I don’t understand how it works or how to take care of it?

Drivers should be tested on more than just the road rules

Road rules are only one part of the equation when it comes to driving a “death machine.” Yes, a death machine.

That’s what it is when you really think about it, and that is what young drivers should be told when they get behind the wheel.

According to statistics published by the Australian Government, 86 people were killed by road deaths in January 2020, almost 3 people a day. If you think that’s bad, it’s actually 20% lower than the previous five years.

This is part of a larger education issue

Unfortunately, driving is not something that is part of the education system in Australia. It is a responsibility that is passed on to the shoulders of parents and full license drivers. These full license drivers however do not need to pass an education test to be able to teach another how to drive. All they need is to have passed the test themselves, whether that be ten years ago, or just yesterday.

The issue with this, is not only that there is no real standard to driving education, but that a full license test does NOT include any questions regarding the maintenance of the vehicle or functional safety. It is simply driving the vehicle that is tested.

If full license drivers are not tested on their ability to understand a cars mechanics in order to obtain the license, how can we ensure this knowledge is passed on?

How can we know how many drivers are on the road right now with absolutely no understanding of how the death machine they are driving works?

I believe that this is only a small part of a much wider issue concerning the Australian education system as whole. In particular, it’s inability to educate our youth in “life skills.”

Not only is driving not taught as a mandatory subject in schools, as it is in the UK and the US, but there is no basic education on HOW a motor vehicle works.

Personally, I believe that the roads would be a safer place, and that young Australias would feel more confident on the roads, if they were taught the ins and outs of motor vehicles in school.

In Australia, it is almost necessary to drive a vehicle, especially if you want to see the beautiful regional areas our country has on offer, so why is this not a more prominent issue?