Stranger in a very strange land
I have been to the state of Georgia. The population is about 10 million. The population of B.C. is about half that of Georgia. Why is this worth mentioning? The differences are striking, to the extreme!
The governor of Georgia has recently made two decisions that defy logic. He has allowed the state to return to normal, declaring an end to the coronavirus threat. He has also decided to award driving licences without a road test. Parents or guardians need only sign a declaration confirming a certain number of hours of practice behind the wheel, for their teens to be permitted to drive on their own. Perhaps the motto of the state should be changed to, Georgia, The Irresponsible State.
The last recorded number of fatal crashes in British Columbia and Georgia tell a rather dramatic tale. In the past three years, Georgia had an average slightly above 1,500 people die on its highways. B.C. recorded slightly fewer than 300 in the same period. This statistic alone, speaks volumes. They are for three recent years — 2016, 2017 and 2018.
ICBC is an exemplary licensing authority, when compared to Georgia. Driving candidates must pass a challenging theory test before being permitted to get behind the wheel with a co-pilot. This stage lasts a minimum of one year. A two-year N driver phase follows, when the learner has passed the first practical road test. A second practical road test can be scheduled any time in the future, resulting in a full unencumbered class 5 licence privilege. B.C. is a leader in its approach to new driver licensing.
There have been no driving tests administered in our province for the past seven weeks. There will be a gradual lifting of the moratorium, starting with motorcycle road tests this month. Trucker candidates are anxious to get tested as well. These higher classes are probably next to get a serious look by the provincial testing authority.
There is no word yet on when driving lessons and road tests will resume, but it is likely to only be considered with the approved masks for both student, instructor and examiners. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, we would all be well advised to follow the advice of our stellar Minister of Health Adrian Dix and our very own version of Wonder Woman, Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Georgia, at the time of the writing, has had 10 times the number of deaths as compared to our province of British Columbia.
Do the math. A state with about twice our population now has 10 times the death rate in this pandemic.
When all is said and done, whenever that may be, B.C. will no doubt be a leader in this battle against the coronavirus. Vancouver Island will be an example of how a population has reacted to the mandated government behaviour with vigour and commitment.
This same commitment can reduce the death rate on our roads. There are considerably fewer vehicles on our roads lately. Drivers are very conscious of the reduced commute times. Wouldn’t it be great if the same energy being applied to the virus threat could be directed to the prevention of all types of vehicle crashes? The collective action of all British Columbians is a formidable force. Let’s make it a force to be reckoned with.
(The spookiest thing just happened! Readers see this column published in the TC each Friday. I usually write it on Sunday evening. I have some music playing in the background. Guess which song and artist are featured this very moment? Georgia on My Mind by Ray Charles! It is from The Genius Hits the Road album. It is on the Stingray Jukebox Oldies, channel 419.)
Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.