We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Turns out the kids are all right after all

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, April 7th 2017

The two years of driving with an “N” displayed at the back of the vehicle is meant to be a probationary period, which can be extended if there are more than two infractions or a blameable crash.

New drivers qualifying for driving privileges in B.C. must jump through all sorts of hoops that were never contemplated for preceding generations.

The process is the longest learning period in North America.

For instance, a teen can get married and enlist in the armed forces before getting an unencumbered driver’s licence in our province.

They deserve a great deal more respect than they get when it comes to qualifying for a driver’s licence.

They must hold a learner’s licence for at least a year prior to attempting a practical road test.
In order to get the learner’s permit, they must earn a grade of no less than 80 per cent on a driving theory test.

They may not attempt this theory test until reaching their 16th birthday, provided they have parental permission.
Once the theory test is passed, they must drive with a licensed co-pilot who is at least 25 and they must display an “L” at the rear of their vehicle.
The province recommends at least 60 hours of practice before new drivers attempt the first road test.

They are only permitted to have one other passenger in the vehicle besides the co-pilot while practising their driving.
Upon successfully passing the first road test, the learner is designated as an “N” or new driver.
This first road test is a 45-minute ordeal, with nine possible skill related items requested by the examiner.
The students must parallel park, reverse stall-park, hill-park, back in a straight line, U-turn, threepoint and reverse turn, identify hazards and open and close the door safely.

At least seven of the nine skills are requested on most practical tests.

The actual driving is done on both busy streets and in residential neighbourhoods.
Provided new drivers maintain a clean record of no more than two driving infractions and do not have any blameable crashes within the next two years, they may attempt the second road test.
The two years of driving with an “N” displayed at the back of the vehicle is meant to be a probationary period, which can be extended if there are more than two infractions or a blameable crash.

The second road test includes a high-speed highway drive with merging on and off a freeway.
The new drivers must back into a parking space, pull on and off the road and do some skill-testing manoeuvres, usually involving turning the vehicle in the opposite direction from a parked position.

This second test is also 45 minutes long. Successful completion allows drivers to scrap the “N” displayed at the back of the vehicle as they are awarded a regular driving licence.

Now think for a moment of your own original driving test.
If you are a veteran of the Second World War, you probably paid a dollar for your licence and did not have to do a test of any kind.
If you got your driving licence after the war, you probably had to do some kind of a road test.

It may have involved an RCMP constable watching or riding for a short time period, usually a few minutes, in a small town or rural area.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that provincial governments began to take driver testing seriously.
In the 1960s, I completed a written test, then two weeks later I did a road test — a two-week wonder.

The 1970s and beyond marked the beginning of more-sophisticated road-testing procedures.
New drivers today go through a staged and rigorous testing regime, one that is not always appreciated by those who got their licences before testing was so seriously applied.

It brings meaning to the phrase: “the kids are all right.”




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