By Jordan W. Charness
Being a teenager can be really tough. I still remember what I was like when I was that age and two of my three kids are still in those teenage years. But being a teenager can also be wonderful; it is a period of growth and new experiences. For many, that is the age that leads to that right of passage from being a pedestrian to becoming a driver!
Each province has different rules for what it takes to earn a driver’s license. Most provinces have adopted a series of graduated licenses and the privilege of driving is only granted bit by bit and piece by piece. The first permit is usually some type of learners’ permit that will allow the new driver to drive only under very strict and controlled circumstances. Sometimes that means driving only with a driving instructor while at other times it could be permission to drive accompanied by another licensed driver in the car who has at least some degree of experience.
One of the strangest rules I’ve seen is the law in Québec that requires a motorcycle rider with a learners permit to ride only when he or she is with an accompanying rider… on another motorcycle! It seems to me that there’s not much that the accompanying rider can do to help out except perhaps to be there to call an ambulance if things go seriously wrong.
Nonetheless, the idea of requiring a young or new driver to spend a fair bit of time driving only in the presence of an older and more experienced driver in the same car makes a lot of sense. Since you’re both in the same vehicle the accompanying driver has as much to lose in case of a collision as the young newbie. And besides, everybody likes to give advice and to teach from time to time.
However, in order for the system to work properly all those involved must follow the rules scrupulously. I heard about a recent case where a police car drove up behind a four-door family sedan for no particular reason. The police just happened to be going the same direction that the other car was going. They did not have their lights or sirens illuminated but to the police officer’s surprise, the car ahead of them pulled out and made a sweeping U-turn up and over a front lawn before hitting a tree head on.
The police got out to investigate and found a young teenage driver all alone in the vehicle. His explanation was that according to the terms of his driver’s license he was supposed to have been accompanied by an older and more experienced driver every time he got behind the wheel of the car.
Nonetheless, he had “borrowed” his father’s vehicle without his father’s knowledge and without benefit of an accompanying driver. When he saw the police car pull up behind him his guilty conscience went into overdrive at the same time that his brain went into stupid mode. That’s when he pulled the U-turn to get away from the police!
This bonehead move led to criminal charges being laid against the teenage driver for dangerous driving and of course a huge blot on his driving record. This was way more trouble than he would have been in had he been stopped by the police for driving without the accompanying driver.
The rules are there for a reason — they are there to keep drivers, passengers, and pedestrian safe. If you have a young driver in your house make sure that he or she understands that driving is a privilege and that just because they think they know how to drive does not necessarily mean that they are allowed to drive or are even capable of driving properly and making the right decisions.