New Drivers Are Idiots

by Nora Marsh

A recent commercial put out by ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) displays a series of near accidents caught by security cameras. This lovely montage is set to the tune "We've only just begun" (that's the chorus, at least).

This commercial is only a part of a new campaign by ICBC to reduce accidents and is aimed directly at new drivers. Its aims are noble, but unfortunately the commercial makes a joke at the expense of new drivers. You see, as the stream of near accident footage rolls by you are lead to the assumption that all the drivers are new drivers. This is a complete assumption and I doubt even ICBC is sure about the identities of the drivers.

What ICBC is doing with this commercial is trying to make a serious situation seem humorous in order to stop the resist reflex of new drivers. We are supposed to laugh along and think "Ha ha, boy are new drivers like me ever dumb. I'm sure glad that kooky ICBC is making me wait 24 months before giving me a full license."

what does this sign
really say about you?


That is a very long time to be stigmatized with either a stupid "L" sign or one which reads "New Driver". Now this isn't a setup for discrimination, now is it? The first thing an experienced driver is going to do after an accident is go ballistic if the other driver happens to be "New" or a "Learner". BANG! right off the bat the new driver is going to take the fall for the accident, simply because they are new. It's a good chance that many "New" drivers will buckle under the intimidation that many experienced drivers will throw on them in the event of an accident.

As if life isn't stressful enough!

I agree that we should teach new drivers to be more careful, especially if we are to believe ICBC's rationale for the Graduated Licensing program (info. taken from the ICBC site):

Why has BC established the Graduated Licensing Program?
More than 80,000 new drivers enter the licensing system in British Columbia each year. All new drivers, regardless of age, are at significantly greater risk of being involved in a collision than experienced drivers.

Fact: B.C. has the highest crash rate in Canada.

Fact: One in five drivers is involved in a crash in the first two years on the road.

Fact: New drivers are almost twice as likely to cause a collision as experienced drivers.

Although attitude and behaviour are important, it is a fact that all new drivers, no matter how responsible they might be, need to learn to drive in lower-risk situations and gain driving experience gradually. Studies show that driving experience is the single most important factor in avoiding crashes.

However, I wonder about ICBC's approach. New drivers must hold their learners for 6 months before taking their Level 1 road test (this can be droppped to a whole 3 months if you pass an approved drivers training course). A driver must then spend 18 months in Level 1 with one of those terrific signs visible to cars behind them. After this a driver can take their Level 2 exam which will then make them a full-priveledged driver. Yippee!

Here, once again from ICBC, are reasons why we should crack down on young drivers:

Why are young drivers especially at risk?
All new drivers, regardless of age, are at a higher risk of being involved in a crash than more experienced drivers. Thatís why new drivers of all ages will enter graduated licensing. However, youth itself is a risk factor.

Fact: Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of young people in B.C. In 1996, almost one-third of the deaths of people aged 13 to 25 resulted from vehicle crashes.

Fact: Licensed drivers aged 16 to 25 represent 15 per cent of licensed drivers but are responsible for 38 per cent of crash-related claims.

The high crash rate of young drivers results not only from their inexperience but also from behaviours that are part of adolescence, such as thrill-seeking and risk-taking. Other factors include:

A Canadian study showed that drivers aged 16 and 17 were more than twice as likely to be killed in a night-time crash as the general driving population.

Fact: Fatalities and injuries in new drivers under the age of 20 have more than doubled since 1992.

B.C. isn't the only province with this, though. Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island also have Graduated Licensing programs underway, although ICBC did not mention the success rates for these programs.

All this is fine and dandy if it saves lives, I guess. It simply troubles me that the government is able to easily justify clamping down on new drivers when it has problems nailing those bastards who continuously drink and drive.

One thing I've always wondered is why the cops can't simply wait outside the parking lot at bars at closing time- it's guaranteed that they would bust half those people for attempting to drink and drive. If anything it would scare people into walking or taking a cab home the moment they see the cops in the parking lot.

But we can't do this. Apparently it's called entrapment and it's unconstitutional. I call it stupid and it's crap.

It seems absolutely daft to me that we can make life difficult for new drivers, yet we won't accept more stringent policing of bars and other drinking establishments. Maybe this is because it's drunks who make the laws in this society, this wonderful society which is supposed to be representative of the wishes of the everyperson. Yeah, right.

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