We are living in an age when the drivers licence has no meaning. Its original concept was to prove to the police, and not necessarily the public, that the holder of the licence was tested and possessed the requisite skills to handle a motor vehicle on a public highway. This skill, although still very important, does not go far enough for the volumes of traffic the modern motorist must contend with.
I would propose as an alternative, or in addition to, the drivers licence that each candidate be required to fill out a mission statement in the form of how they intend to operate their vehicle.
“I, John Doe, promise to skillfully operate my motor vehicle in a manner that will be courteous and with consideration for other persons using the highway at all times.”
Sound a little too far fetched? If you are walking down a sidewalk and a person stepped out in front of you from a store and narrowly misses bumping into you what would the conversation go like. In all probability you and the errant person would both start off by saying “excuse me.” The person who was the obvious innocent party would almost instinctively say “that’s okay… no harm done.”
The incident would not even bear enough significance in the course of a busy day to even be remembered. In fact it is almost certain that both parties would laugh about it.
The problem occurs when we place these same two people inside a steel cocoon and between the curbs of a highway. Because of the impersonal nature of steel and glass everything is transformed into hulking machinery doing the manoeuvring and apparently divorced from the obvious human behind the wheel.
“That car just cut me off!”
No it didn’t. That PERSON just cut you off. And that person, in all probability, passed all the tests required to demonstrate their skill at not doing what they just did. And the offended motorists response…. “In other words the S.O.B. probably did it on purpose… my wrath must be quenched.”
The modern road warrior is born and fortified by the possession of a licence reminiscent of James Bond’s own licence. You know… the “licence to kill!”
The “Mission Statement”, as opposed to the drivers licence, is a public document that explains to the world that the person has promised to act in a predictable conscientious manner when they enter the roadway. The skill testing which accompanies the drivers licence is intended to gain the motor skills and road knowledge down pat. The mission statement, however, gets the head straight. I would even suggest that every motorist be required to go to a justice of the peace or notary public and have their mission statement sworn and then attached to the dash of the car as a constant reminder. A suitable quote from their statement could be embossed on the back of the licence itself. When a notice of licence renewal is mailed a copy of the original statement should be included as a reminder of the promise made.
When a person fails to uphold the standards to which they have sworn then their privilege to drive is revoked until they take measures to assure the public that they intend to comply in the future. This could include such radical ideas as a complete psychiatric evaluation and even anger management courses.
This idea is not new. Way back in the late 19th century Henry Ford did just that. After an accident involving a young lad crossing a roadway Henry was so shaken that he felt he had to do something to assure the public that his future operation of the motor car was going to be performed with the utmost care and good judgement. He went to the Detroit city hall and swore out an affidavit that he would do just that and carried it with him each time he drove a car.
Over a century has passed by and we still haven’t gotten the message. Before the skill is tested we should make sure the head and attitude is straight.