Just reading in this newspaper about teenage drivers heading out on the road without licenses because the province can’t deal with the enormous backlog in testing created by the pandemic.
My own son is wrestling with this problem. He has his G2 but is waiting to get a test for his full G licence and has been told the polar ice cap may have disappeared by the time they get around to him. The licence office did not appear to be bothered about this at all. The insurance company is also quite content with the situation because they can keep on charging him the higher rate until the machinery of government gets around to testing him. There is no incentive for anyone to treat him decently and I notice he has come to his own conclusion about the value of that particular public institution.
There is a very simple solution to this problem sitting right under the government’s nose. The very best driver’s test ever given to anyone on the planet happened in a little rural police department in the Murray River district of Australia in 1969. The big lanky officer sat me down to write a motorcycle test and, since he wasn’t busy, decided to give the test orally. Halfway through the test he got impatient with the questions.
“Are you colour-blind?” he read.
“I don’t think so. How would I know?”
“Good point,” he said. “What colour is the grass?
“Green,” I said.
He threw the test on the desk. “Let’s say you passed. Now come out here with me.” Over the next hour he put me through an obstacle course in the detachment parking lot. He even showed me how to lay the bike down and ride it through an emergency stop. The lesson came with a number of horror stories, some advice on clothing, a few favorite rides of his own and a warning not to ride in the rain and never try to cross the Nullabor Desert on a bike.
The last thing he said was, “The most important thing is to look. I mean really look. We all just glance at things and think we’ve taken everything in. But when you are on a vehicle crossing an intersection you have to do more than glance. You have to look.”
I left with a large L for Learner sign fixed to the fender which stayed on the bike until I sold it a year later. I have now been driving for a half century without an accident. The only moving violations I have received over that time have been speeding tickets issued by bored officers snoozing beside their favorite fishing holes. Needless to say I have formed my own views about the value of services from that public institution. On the surface it appears to be more interested in tax collection than public safety.
This is not the police officers’ fault. Thousands of them are told to do this every day when there is much more important work to be done. Like testing young drivers. The backlog could be dealt with in about three weeks if police officers everywhere would just climb in a car with a young person and ride around with them for an hour like that man did with me 52 years ago. Not only would the backlog disappear, all those young people might have a chance to bond with a peace officer and perhaps form a different view of their role on the highways. They might even come away from the experience with second thoughts about defunding the police department, which is all the rage on social media these days.
About 10 years ago, my second son had a difficult day during his last year of high school and decided he was leaving home on foot with a gym bag. My wife called a friend of hers in the local police detachment and Constable “Marky Bear” gathered the lad up on the highway a few minutes later. He spent an hour showing the kid all the gadgets and firepower in the cruiser. They did a few donut turns and high speed pursuits and then sat and talked about everything and nothing.
A few weeks later, my son joined the military and spent six years in the Princess Patricia Light Infantry running a light armored vehicle with a 50 calibre machine gun. I remember thinking at the time that an hour spent with a good police officer can sometimes be equal to or greater than a year’s worth of active parenting for a troubled teen. So, I would hand this drive testing problem to the police and say get out there, solve this problem for us and make some friends. It will be a great way to serve and protect us.