Let me start by saying I’m not here to defend those who go drifting through residential streets at midnight or those who see traffic lights on a main road as the starting lights of a Formula 1 race. A lot of the activities that these drivers engage in are undoubtedly dangerous in built up areas. However, it reflects a natural desire held by many people to go fast and push physical limits. One very common misconception about the ‘hoon’ culture (I don’t like using the word hoon, because I think it often used to unfairly disparage anyone who modifies or is even just passionate about cars) is that it’s all about showing off to friends. What people fail to understand is that driving fast, drifting and taking risks reflects a passion for skilled driving. Driving can be a hobby, much like collecting stamps or gardening (though driving is surely far more exciting).
This is an important point. Because it means that people won’t be discouraged from taking these risks just because governments tell them not to and punish them when they do. Police do not stop these activities from taking place. Drivers just find somewhere else to go, where there are no police. To look at this issue rationally is to accept that no matter what laws are introduced, no matter what action is taken by the local community, no matter how much resources are funneled into chasing and prosecuting drivers, people will continue to have fun in their cars. And who can blame them?
If this argument is accepted, then the most logical way to deal with the issue is to create environments where drivers can express their passion. I can already hear some of you saying “there are already places for drivers to do that. They could go a local race track rather than speed down my local street”. But a casual few hours at Sydney Motorsport Park, for example, will set you back well over $300. Are regular track days really affordable for anyone not on a decent income? Besides, governments spend millions of dollars every year building and maintaining public facilities such as football and soccer fields, athletics tracks etc., so is it too much to ask for an affordable option for casual and enthusiastic drivers looking to have some fun?
In Australia, the trend seems to be the reverse of this. The introduction of ‘anti-hoon’ laws in Victoria a few years back gave the state the power to indefinitely confiscate and even crush the cars of offenders who were speeding, doing burnouts etc. Ironically, some offenders even had to attend driver education courses, despite the fact that their car control skills were likely better than the average driver who has never attempted any form of defensive driving.
NSW also has its own anti-hoon laws for those caught speeding, street racing and doing burnouts. NSW also has an ‘aggravated burnout offence’ which results in the immediate suspension of the offender’s licence until a charge is determined by the court. In this case the ‘offender’ includes anyone who “willingly participates in, urges others to participate in, photographs or films to promote or organise hoon activity”. It seems as though governments have lost all perspective on the nature of these offences.
Instead of assisting drivers to find safe and non-disruptive ways of enjoying their vehicles, governments are increasingly punishing drivers and stealing their cars. With a complete lack of understanding of the driving culture, and a refusal to provide appropriate facilities for enthusiastic drivers, governments force people into risky driving on public roads. Then, they funnel countless dollars into police resources to try and control an environment that they themselves have played a role in creating.
Now before anyone claims that I’m just bitter about this because of personal experiences, let me say that I have never been charged under any of these laws. Conscious of the dangers of this type of driving in built-up areas, I used to drive half an hour or more away from the nearest town to find places off the road, where I could practice my driving with minimal risk to others. It made me a better driver and allowed me to understand the characteristics of my car.
I expect that many of you will disagree with my opinion here. But concluding that all drivers who like to do drive fast, do burnouts and drift are hoons who should be punished completely misses the point of why drivers do these things in the first place. When done under the right circumstances, there are benefits to this type of activity and it allows people to follow their passion. At the very least, I think governments, as well as many citizens, need to readjust their perspectives of the driving culture. A different approach could allow drivers to have fun without disturbing other citizens, and allow governments to redirect police resources to dealing with more important issues.
Happy driving 🙂
Should more effort be put into creating safe environments for drivers to have fun? Do you agree/disagree with anything above? Let me know in the comments section.