Thursday, April 21, 2005


Safe Driving #2: I'm a good driver - I passed my test!

In Europe it is difficult to get a driving license. There are extended tests, theory tests, hazard perception tests, highway tests, tests on simulators, car maintenance tests, tests of tests.... basically a large bureaucracy aimed at making it as expensive and difficult as possible to get behind the wheel, and supporting a large number of civil servants in the process.

In the USA, it is much easier. As befits the ethos of "the land of the free", provided you can pass the eyesight test and a simple written test, the driving test administered in most jurisdictions is designed to examine your ability to drive a car very slowly around residential streets for a period of about fifteen minutes without hitting anything or blowing through a stop sign. I passed mine first time without any preparation of any kind and obtained such a high score that the examiner and staff thought there was something suspicious going on.

I don't know why people spend money in the US on driver's Ed. I could teach anybody with basic hand-eye coordination and a willingness to learn to pass the driving test, in Illinois at least, in about three hours.

My point is not to denigrate the driving examination process here. On the contrary, I believe it is the job of the state solely to prevent visually impaired or obviously incompetent drivers from obtaining a license, and the system achieves that objective admirably. Beyond that, people should take responsibility for their own safety and that of their passengers.

My point is that when the state hands you a piece of paper granting you the privilege of driving, that should be the beginning of learning to drive safely, not the end.
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