Myriad reasons for getting your licence
By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, November 13, 2013
Whenever I ask why a new driver candidate wants a licence, there is often a predictable response — but there are sometimes unique and unpredictable answers to the question.
Freedom and independence are the most common reasons. A driver’s licence has been a Canadian “rite of passage” for many young adults. The first standard of admittance for a new driver was a simple height measurement. The average 16-year-old was four-foot-eight tall at the turn of the 20th century, a height at which the pedals of an average vehicle could be reached. Both theoretical and practical driving tests nowadays for teens are comprehensive and deemed difficult by any standard.
Safety is another consideration for qualifying to drive. Many women do not feel safe waiting alone at a transit stop in the early morning or late evening. They would much rather be in a vehicle with automatic locking doors and the relative protection provided.
Employment is a consideration as well. Many employers will not hire someone without a driver’s licence. It is often a term of employment. There are certain jobs which might require a person to go for help in an emergency from isolated locations.
There is another social factor that is often overlooked. Canadian culture deems the attainment of qualified driving licence as an intelligence test: Many job-interview candidates who make the shortlist have a driver’s licence. Those without a licence often don’t make the cut.
There a people who get passed over for promotion because the position they would like to have requires a licence. Many people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are in a panic to get a licence are constantly approaching driving schools for a “crash course,” no pun intended, in order to meet an imposed deadline for a dream job.
Young parents are stressed to get toddlers to and from recreation and other such non-school-related activities when they do not drive. Many find themselves getting a driver’s licence out of necessity, for the kid’s sake. Families that have been living in the relative convenience of a densely populated city and have moved to a rural area are sometimes shocked to discover the absence of a dependable transit service. Waiting for a bus in freezing temperatures is not fun.
One student who got his licence last year simply wanted it to go camping. Another had to attend swim workouts in the early morning and was given a deadline for test day by parents, who were sick and tired of carting an 18-year-old to the pool.
The strangest circumstance I have run across was that of a young married woman who, as a term of an arranged marriage, had to get a “Canadian” licence by a certain age or an additional dowry was due.
More and more people with physical handicaps are getting a licence. It provides them with the independence to do the daily tasks most of us take for granted. Specially equipped vehicles allow for a full and complete life with the freedom to move independently. These drivers with a particular physical challenge have a lower crash rate than the national average.
My most memorable student was a woman who had eight grown daughters. At age 63, she decided to get her licence. All the kids were gone and her husband had passed away. She finally had the time to learn.
Did you have a special reason to get your licence?
Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is the former Western Canadian vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.