We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

New drivers deserve your patience

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, March 2, 2012

Experienced drivers need to be patient with new drivers. Photograph by: Edmonton Journal, file

Some drivers are seemingly frantic, stressed, agitated and generally concerned when they are travelling in close quarters to a driving-school vehicle. In most cases, this feeling of vulnerability is unjustified. Driving-school vehicles are among the safest on the road. My own insurance rate for a driving-school car is less than $100 per month, for full coverage in all categories including basic, collision, comprehensive and liability.

Instructional vehicles must be equipped with an additional brake, mirrors and student-driver signs that identify the unique use of the vehicle. There is no requirement to display an “L” or an “N” as well as the student-driver sign on the back of the driving-school vehicle. The exception to the redundant nature of such use of the “L” and “N” is not afforded to the examiners, who must display them, as well as the “student driver” sign, for testing situations. (This stipulation makes no sense at all, but is insisted upon by managers responsible for road testing at ICBC.)

Some driving schools use rooftop signs, which are meant to alert traffic to the learning driver. Most modern-day driving schools do not mount rooftop signs because of the poor fuel consumption associated with their use. Others prefer a low-key approach and want their students to blend with traffic, while allowing only the most immediate surrounding vehicles to be aware of the learner. Personally, I was mistaken for a taxi far too often when I did use the rooftop option several years ago.

The best way for other drivers to behave, when sharing the road with student drivers, is to act in a normal and predictable fashion. The best thing an instructor can do is make sure the learning driver is not overwhelmed by the tasks being performed. There is nothing more frustrating than for other traffic to be impeded and obstructed by a student driver who is not ready to perform the manoeuvres suggested. I must confess to having this happen to me as an instructor from time to time. Use of the four-way flashers will usually alert other drivers to the problems being faced by both the instructor and the student. Pulling off the road to allow traffic to proceed is always a good idea in this situation.

People who are rude and impolite toward the students learning to drive are exposing themselves to not only public ridicule, but also legal ramifications. Last year, a very upset driver did harass a student driver in a road-rage incident. The student was obeying the school zone sign, when the driver behind began sounding the horn and flashing the headlights. As the student pulled up to the red traffic light, the harassment continued. In fact, the driver pulled beside the student and made several threatening gestures. As a result of this behaviour, the police were given the pertinent information and were waiting for the middle-aged man when he returned home. He was charged with driving without due consideration for others. A trial took place and the offending driver was found guilty. The fine of $196 was levied along with the addition of six penalty points. The student driver and the instructor had given evidence, as well as the accused.

We can all remember a time when we were learning to drive. It was an exciting but stressful process. Many of us have done an equally stressful stint in the co-pilot seat beside the student driver. The courtesy afforded anyone learning to drive is much appreciated. The accommodation of other drivers by driving instructors is a professional way to conduct lessons and is equally appreciated by the driving public.

The next time you see a student driver behind the wheel, do the expected and all will unfold as it should.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Interior of B.C.


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