Did you know that new drivers in the Yukon need 50 hours of instruction before they can take their road test?
I didn’t know that. All I needed to get my driver’s license, back in the day, was a Learner’s Permit, a working vehicle and high hopes.
Today, not only do they need 50 hours behind the wheel, 10 of those hours need to be during the winter and 10 need to be at night time. And from the first hour to the final hour, at least six months need to pass.
Crazy. Impossible. Don’t these people know/care that I have TWO teenagers?
Now that I have reached the other side, both of my kids having passed on their first tries, I have to admit that 50 hours is a really, really good idea.
After 50 hours of instruction behind the wheel, there is a certain comfort that settles in; there is a certain wisdom and maturity that are bestowed upon the new driver that I never benefited from.
Instead of comfort, wisdom and maturity, I had dumb luck keeping me from crashing my car.
There is one thing my 16-year-old self has in common with all of those kids of today in the Yukon: we all live in communities where the driver examiners automatically fail boys the first time out.
My big brother told me the night before my test that I would fail just like all of the boys he knows … including himself. However, I did get my license on the first try …
Heyyy, just a minute … I doubt Trenton, Ontario (circa 1970s) has the same driver examiners as the Yukon. Maybe this is just a fallacy shared by all communities? You know, just like we all have a friend who knows a guy who told a big-wig at a formal dinner to keep his fork because there’s dessert coming.
The way I figure it, it is not the driver examiner’s job to fail people; it is their job to give licences to those who are ready. If they are not ready, the greatest public service they can provide is to tell them to come back later.
Or, more to the point, go and practice for the entire 50 hours and stop trying to fool them.
Anyway, the law is the law and I somehow found 50 hours, times two, of precious, free time to drive in circles with my kids.
Now that it is over, I miss it.
Let’s face it, once teenagers have their driver licenses, they have the ability to go anywhere without you.
Once the government has told them they are knowledgeable and skilled enough to handle a motorized vehicle on public roads, they no longer have to listen to you.
But I twigged onto this early on and I used every moment to reinforce the need for profound carefulness, showing generosity toward strangers, the dangers of substance abuse, absolute responsibility, anger management, maintaining control of your surroundings and patience.
There were pearls of wisdom, life lessons, in such statements as:
If you leave five minutes late, you will arrive five minutes late.
You don’t carry extra gas for you, you carry it for other motorists.
When you drop off a passenger, you don’t leave until they are safely indoors.
It is better to have a happy driver in front of you, than a frustrated driver behind you.
If you can see their eyes, they can see you.
The person who is honking at you, wasn’t going to send you a Christmas card anyway.
People who drive faster than you, pay higher insurance premiums than you.
Cars are bigger than pedestrians, that is why motorists have all of the responsibility.
To those of you who are teaching your children to drive: savour these last moments of one-on-one time with them. Rarely again will you have their full attention.
To whoever came up with the idea of requiring new drivers to practise for 50 hours: thank you.