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We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Licensing system in need of an overhaul

September 7, 2012

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, September 7th, 2012

Sometimes, I am mystified by unintended consequences of the best-intended government action, as it pertains to driver licensing and regulation.

Here are several examples of well-intended foulups.

Learners must display an “L” for at least a year before attempting the first driving road test. This is a good idea, since it allows learners the opportunity to experience all four seasons and a variety of weather conditions, as well as night driving.

Once the year is up, the first road test can be taken.

When successful, the new driver is permitted to drive for up to two years in the “N” phase. When the twoyear period has elapsed, a new driver can attempt the second road test. Most teen drivers are excited about getting their driving privilege. They show up on their 16th birthday to take the written test. They take the road test one year later and the second road test TWO years after that. They now have relatively unencumbered driving privileges.

They are 19 years old. Guess what other unencumbered privilege is attained at the age of 19 in B.C.? You guessed it: They are legally allowed to consume alcohol. I cannot think of a more dangerous combination of circumstances that could occur for a teen driver. To have this timing remain in place is a travesty.

There is another unintended consequence of the two-year mandatory “N” phase. Drivers never have to exit the phase. There is no time limit within which they must attempt the second road test. This is a ridiculous situation. We now have drivers who are in their late 20s, who have given up displaying the “N” years ago. They will not likely be noticed by police, since they would be identified as mature. Rather than spend $50 for a second road test, they drive knowing full well they are very unlikely to ever be stopped. In Ontario, a road test must be attempted within five years of such a phase. I am quite sure no government wishes to experience a 75-year-old displaying the “N” in the year 2050. But it is conceivable under the present legislation.

Some young women refuse to display the “N” because they believe it identifies them as young women driving alone at night. They think their safety is being compromised by displaying the “N.” I agree. The “N” phase is justifiable. Displaying it is not. The fine for not displaying the “N” is $109.

Many concerned parents have instructed their teens to remove the “N” when driving at night or in vulnerable circumstances.

They have agreed to pay the fine if their teens get caught without it. The “N” is magnetic and can be easily removed by an illintended person. It is time to re-evaluate the entire process. What’s next, an “S” for seniors? “P” for politician perhaps? That would be interesting.

When I am teaching a new driver, my driving school car must display a “STUDENT DRIVER” sign. Driving schools, for this reason of redundancy, are exempt from having to display an “L” or an “N.” Curiously, when a government driving examiner tests a driving-school student, the examiner must display an “L” or an “N” even though there is a clearly visible “STUDENT DRIVER” sign permanently affixed to the back of the car. Who thought this one up? I suspect it is a simple oversight.

My message to the monopoly that controls these above-noted items is direct and simple: Please fix it!

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former V.P. of the Associated Driving Schools of the Americas and a certified B.C. teacher.

stevedwallace@shaw.ca

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