A Driving Instructor's Blog

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OK, I admit I’m stirring it with that title, but hot on the heels of that last story from Ireland comes this one announcing proposed changes to the Irish system.

The bit at the bottom is bound to stir up a hornets nest:

Currently, test pass rates vary hugely from centre to centre, with almost half of all learners failing the test.

For example, in 2011, 68 per cent of drivers passed the test in Ennis, Co Clare, but just 40 per cent passed in Kilkenny and in Rathgar, Dublin.

While the RSA defends the variation, it is understood next year’s review will tackle the issue “to ensure uniformity of the driving test”.

Oh dear! They even put it in inverted commas, so they know already what will happen. Let’s just hope someone in Ireland understands the true implications of varying pass rates and doesn’t just end up blaming it on the examiners. And let’s also hope they understand the implications of foisting variances on Irish examiners employed by a system which is less than two years old, and which replaced total anarchy.

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This came in on the newsfeeds. It’s a letter to the Irish Times from someone who doesn’t have a clue.

It’s worth pointing out that from what I am told by my Irish pupils, until last year the standard way of obtaining a licence in Ireland was to get a provisional, take one driving lesson, and then drive for the rest of your life without fear of any legal comeback whatsoever. And I’m not making that up. It was possible to get a full licence, but it didn’t require much effort (and the “effort” wasn’t necessarily the kind that involved passing a test). Documentation was almost non-existent.

Ireland was forced into line by the EU – which was a good thing, because in the early part of this century, tax breaks meant that there was a lot of Irish labour over here, and being members of the EU meant that they could drive in the UK with no restrictions. The overall standard demonstrated was absolutely appalling. Again, I’m not making that up – though I’m sure that crazy woman from Manchester who wrote to me a while back is hyperventilating over the fact that I have said it.

I’ve reported before on the typical attitude of older Irish drivers. In that story from 2011, a 61-year old failed to get a test fail reversed in court (it was his seventh appeal against being failed), and his defence was based solely on the fact that he had “been driving for 44 years”.

As of April 2011, anyone obtaining a learner permit in Ireland for the first time is required to do mandatory training, and must be accompanied at all times by a qualified driver who has held their licence for at least 2 years.

Anyway, the letter I mentioned runs as follows:

Sir, – Your Front Page article (December 11th) states there are 271,000 learner drivers in this country. That a recent Garda operation found 50 per cent of learner drivers were driving unaccompanied is hardly surprising.

Why do learner drivers feel it is necessary to break the law? Perhaps most of them have no choice. It is rare that a job is to be found within walking or cycling distance of one’s home. Outside the cities, public transport is minimal. Even in the cities, public transport is often not suitable. A qualified driver may not be available, or a lift with someone going your way. The job may not pay enough to justify renting a dwelling closer to it.

Instead of criminalising learner drivers with penalty points and €1,000 fines, it might be better if the Road Safety Authority produced a TV series on how to be a better and safer driver, which would be shown regularly on TV and the internet. Then anyone, of any age, at any time, could revise their driving skills. Keep the compulsory driving lessons. Also, perhaps all learner drivers could be restricted to a maximum of 65km/h, with penalty points awarded for breaking that particular law or non-display of L-plates.

Finally, something which the Government might understand. If you can’t get to work, how can you take up that job and pay tax to the Government? If 271,000 decided not to drive, that’s 271,000 fewer road taxes to be collected, 271,000 fewer insurance policies to be sold, less excise duty and VAT at 91 cent per litre. God only knows how much would be lost to the exchequer.

There is a problem with driving standards in this country, but criminalising and beating down learner drivers starting out in life is not the most effective way of going about it.

I have had a full driving licence since 1993 and am not writing merely because I am a learner driver. – Yours, etc,

What this guy is advocating is a return to the old system! To let learners drive unsupervised for as long as they want – but to produce a TV series to “educate” them by way of a smokescreen.

He completely fails to understands that the reason the new Irish system is not being adhered to is precisely because of the cowboy operation it used to be. He is the worst kind of modern-day, namby-pamby liberal – the kind that gets whatever country they live in into a mess to begin with by trying to remove barriers on grounds of “rights” and “civil liberties”. The reason so many are flouting the law is because that’s the kind of people they are! We have that sort over here, too, and they regularly appear on the cop shows on TV.

One suspects that in spite of his last sentence and disclaimer over any vested interest, there just might be someone he is thinking of when he writes what he has written.

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This story is also from America. Police in Indiana stopped Timothy Thompson, 23, when they caught him doing 100mph.

It’s full of “allegedly” statements, but it appears that he’d only been freed from jail that morning and was on his way to his wedding. He was driving erratically and changing lanes a lot – which I suppose is quite normal if you’re going 50mph faster than everyone else on the highway. As he pulled into the church parking lot, which had three of his relatives in it waving their arms at him, he accelerated and did a doughnut, creating a thick blanket of smoke.

The American version is here. Neither story tells why he was in jail to begin with – but from his “alleged” comments, stupidity would be my first guess.

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This story from California is interesting. It begins:

My neighbor said her 98-year-old father was beside himself recently. He told her he had failed his driver’s test. He’d been a Teamster, for heaven’s sake — he drove for a living without an accident — and now some DMV goon decided his driving was unsafe.

“I hear the same story on a daily basis,” said John Locher. “A senior will say, ‘I’m a safe driver. I drove all over Europe in World War II. I’ve driven all over the country and haven’t had a ticket my entire life.'”

In fact, he was failed for macular degeneration – which means he couldn’t bloody well see properly!

In the UK it is a huge issue because older drivers don’t have to take a re-test. All they do is fill in a form once they’re 70 (and every 3 years thereafter) declaring that they’re still medically fit to drive, and back comes the licence. And they don’t even have to pay for it!

The problem is that many septuagenarians just lie so they can keep driving.

I’ve mentioned before about my dad. He has macular degeneration (right now, he’s almost blind) but about 10 years ago when he was having trouble seeing properly he was planning to hire a car and travel 250 miles to Portsmouth (after I refused to lend him mine). I warned him there and then that if he did I would report him to the police. I confess to being selfish – I didn’t want him to kill himself – but having someone who can’t see out in a car or van is a frightening prospect as far as other road users are concerned.

The UK has no maximum age for driving. It should have, though.

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This came through on the newsfeeds. Apparently, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in New Zealand has – for some unfathomable reason – decided to teach dogs how to drive a vehicle. I won’t call it a “car”, because it isn’t.

Apparently, it’s a publicity stunt aimed at showing dog owners thinking of abandoning their pets how intelligent they are. This doesn’t even go half way to explaining why it is therefore necessary to teach them to drive.

To the lesser mind, the suggestion that dogs are “intelligent” enough to drive naturally implies that they could also compete with humans on the professional sports front, become airline pilots, and become eligible to vote. Perhaps in New Zealand, but anywhere else…?

It’s a monumental waste of (New Zealand) money.

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