Ah politics. You probably don’t like to talk about it, and you probably like even less to hear me talk about it, but you can’t escape the fact that there are “important” (and the other type) of decisions being made daily on our behalf. And dare I say, some of them don’t make any sense.
Today, buried under the story of Royal Mail shares being sold cheap (ask again in 6 months) (not investing advice), is the tale that the Government is plotting a change in the rules for taking your driving test. And while I usually prefer to not be rude or sensationalist, let me say here and now that I think they are fucking dumb.
The premise is not all that unreasonable. I completely agree that something should be changed to improve road safety, and it is difficult to argue that a contributing factor in many accidents is the young age of one or more drivers involved. The statistics paint a fairly telling story after all. So I understand that changes need to be made, and frankly, I’d much rather our parliament spent time discussing this sort of thing than whether or not rich people should be allowed to chase foxes (something I really dislike, but also don’t give a shit about, if that’s possible).
However, I take issue with the proposals being set out. A lot. I have broken out the key elements, along with a firm rebuttal for each as to why I think its utter batshit.
– Before you can get a full licence, you will need to complete 120 hours of supervised driving with a responsible adult. Incidentally, I completely agree with the government that this will radically change the behaviour of young drivers. Specifically, it will incite them to commit fraud (joke alert!). The odds of any 18 year old (aside from that weird kid who liked to sit near the front of class. What was with that guy?) accurately completing a form which documents the time, place, weather conditions and people present of 120 hours of driving time are very small indeed.
As an aside, I reckon I probably achieved this (by accident) with my parents when learning to drive. I took a while to get good at driving) over 6 months, and I spent a lot of time driving my parents around (though I was the key beneficiary of these reverse lifts). Did I fuck fill a form out about it though. Also, when learning to drive, I was complicit in fraud (for legal reasons, please consider this story fictional). At the time, it was possible to take “pass plus” lessons, where you drove around for a bit with your instructor in rain, night, motorway, etc conditions. It got you cheaper insurance if you did this. My instructor, who was a former policeman btw, pointed out that these lessons would cost far more than the insurance savings. As a result, he took me on the motorway one (which he considered “very important”), and then filled in some other dates when I may well have been driving with him at night, in the rain. He pointed out that I had actually done that driving many times, so why pay again to prove it? Fair point, and in my bank account’s favour, I might add.
The point here (in a story that quickly rambled out of control, and implicated me in a fictional crime) is that getting that experience could be very fucking costly. I had indulgent parents who had the time to accompany me on journeys and more importantly, could drive and hence supervise. What of the people out there with parents working funny hours, or who can’t drive, or just don’t have a car. You can try getting 120 hours-worth of favours out of a neighbour or your aunt, but unless they live nearby AND have a soft spot for you, I doubt it will fly. I have friends who don’t drive (or own a car) and have a young son. In 17 years’ time, they are going to struggle to address this issue. I would not want to have to pay for 120 hours for an instructor to help you rack up these hours. That would easily cost more than my first car.
– You can’t drive after 10pm (or before 5am) without a person over 30 in the car. Well, aside from the arbitrary nature of the number 30… no, actually let’s not ignore that. For the record (and for 2 more weeks) I am not 30 years old. I like to think of myself as a relatively responsible member of society: I am a homeowner, and have held a well-paying job for 7 years now. And I nearly have a daughter of my own. I am allowed to drink and vote and all that. And yet I can’t supervise my sister while she drives at night (assuming hypothetically that she didn’t pass her test 8 years ago). My sister, also for the record, is also a fairly trustworthy person – she is allowed to operate radioactive machines at the local cancer treatment hospital and own her own home, but not drive by herself at night.
What happens if I get stuck in traffic somewhere? Do I need to get a 30 year old to come and meet me? Do I pull over and sleep in a lay-by? What if I work shifts in the countryside (as some of my friends did when we were younger) and don’t finish until after 10pm, or start earlier than 5am? Any parents planning to come meet their offspring at that time of day?
– The final rule that is absolutely killing me is that you aren’t allowed any passengers under 30. I need to reiterate: I am not yet 30. And yet I am old enough to have, more or less, stopped drinking and going out late, or having any fun at all. That is how old 30 actually is, people. I regularly give rides, and get rides from people my age, and now, if they were recent drivers (which they actually aren’t, but at some point they were) that would be out of the question. I also, a few years ago, was the “responsible passenger” for my wife when she learnt to drive (it went ok). Suffice to say, that would no longer be an option. It’s so odd to expect adults to require supervision from other adults who are significantly older than they are. I really don’t get it. Also, I assume that the designated driver is dead and buried by these rules? Unless all your friends are elderly people who drink in the day time, I suppose.
Fair enough though, I probably shouldn’t shit on these proposals without being in some way constructive. I don’t think things should stay quite as they are. However, I also believe that improvements can be made without absolutely shitting on young drivers, many of whom are responsible and see driving as a rite of passage into adulthood. If these changes are made, there will be a lot of people who don’t (can’t) pass their tests until they themselves have children. I know that can happen already, but without having society frown upon them I mean. Here are my suggestions:
- Cut the alcohol limit to 0. Not drinking is really fucking easy. You just don’t do it. I know a lot of people who enjoy it, and a lot of people who believe that they can “handle their drink”. But even a single pint of beer isn’t going to improve your driving, so just leave it alone.
- Make people retake their test every 2-5 years. The re-test should be a bit less onerous than the original, but challenging enough that people will need to keep up good behaviour in between time and not let bad habits creep too far in. this will also weed out the people whose eyesight/reflexes are shot. That would suck, but not as much as dying in a wreck, no? (yes).
- Keep/bring back (does it still exist?) pass plus, and make it compulsory AND FREE. Driving on the motorway the first time was terrifying, and I understand completely why my instructor felt it was necessary not to skip that part. I had never driven at 70 mph before, and I was dropped straight on to the M25 in the middle of a busy period (ie: any time of day or night). It was a big relief to have a former police driver sat in the passenger seat helping me out.
Vote for me!