June 6, 2003

BCAA gives qualified approval to proposed Graduated Licensing changes

Burnaby, B.C. – The British Columbia Automobile Association stated that it is generally supportive of proposed changes to the Graduated Licensing Program announced on Wednesday, but says the government needs to take a close look at how they will impact new drivers. In addition, BCAA says a stronger emphasis needs to be placed on the role parents play in educating and guiding new drivers.

“BCAA believes the proposed Graduated Licensing changes will, for the most part, have a positive impact on the safety of young and inexperienced drivers,” says Bill Bullis, BCAA President & CEO. “But we also believe that toughening the laws is only part of the solution. Parents have a critical role to play, and the government and the traffic safety community need to do more to help parents play a constructive role in the lives of their teen drivers.”

Of the proposed changes, BCAA is highly supportive of the requirement for drivers to maintain a “prohibition free” driving record during the novice stage. “The main goal of Graduated Licensing is for new drivers to gain experience and develop good driving habits,” adds Bullis. “BCAA believes that threatening to ‘set the clock back’ for any driver receiving a prohibition
during the Novice period provides a pretty strong incentive to maintain a clean driving record.”

BCAA has reservations, however, on the proposal to restrict the number of non-family passengers a novice driver can carry. “You can’t argue with the statistics,” says Bullis, referring to stats showing that a young driver’s risk of being involved in a crash increases exponentially with each passenger. “We have to ask, however, if it is that much safer having two cars on the road each carrying one passenger, than one car carrying three passengers. Also, by extending the length of the program overall, the passenger restriction will mean that many college and university students, and young workers, will not have the opportunity to car pool.”

Another change that BCAA is questioning is the proposal to raise the age of eligible supervising drivers from 19 to 25. “The crash rate among drivers at the Learners stage is already very low, so we don’t see why it is necessary to change the rules regarding supervising
drivers,” adds Bullis. “Also, by raising the age from 19 to 25, opportunities for older siblings or friends to act as supervisors are reduced, thereby potentially reducing the amount of supervised time a new driver will have behind the wheel.”

Finally, BCAA says it will be calling for a stronger incentive for new drivers to enroll in professional driver training. Currently, the Learners stage can be reduced from six to three months – up to 50 per cent – if a driver successfully completes ICBC-approved training. Under the proposed changes, the Learners stage could be reduced from 12 to nine months – only 25
per cent – if a driver takes and passes ICBC-approved training. BCAA is convinced that quality driver training can go a long way to building confidence and developing good driving habits among new drivers, and should be encouraged as much as possible.

The BCAA applauded the government on allowing for consultation on the proposed Graduated Licensing changes, and says it will be making representation on behalf of its members. BCAA is the province’s largest member services association with 720,000 members.

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