Having passed my driving test last week I can now smugly sit back and criticise the Learner Drivers that flock the roads; a group who, until recently, I was a part of. Should I criticise them? Should we criticise them? Of course not.
It is a necessary exercise. Where else do they have to go? Nowhere. It is a double edged sword. Learner drivers cannot drive unaccompanied without a licensed driver, however, without driving on their own, learners will never get that last integral piece of confidence that only comes from driving on their own. It was certainly driving on my own that brought me from learner to driver. Driving on your own, you gain the independence that comes with using the road and you gain an awareness; essentially, you learn to control the car free of anyone’s instructions but your own.
In a modern Ireland, is it not time we approached learning to drive with a degree of modernity too? Areas where learner drivers could accelerate, change gears, engage in ramps, reversing and parking would provide a safe environment for the required tuition. I’m not the first to call for such implementation. Former rally driver and current road safety activist Rosemary Smith offers a different take on driving lessons. She gives lessons to youngsters who hold a provisional drivers license on private grounds. Free of the pressures and possible dangers of driving on a busy road, learner drivers are afforded the opportunity to understand how a car works, how dangerous it can potentially be and the correct manoeuvres before they hit the open road.
Could it be done? If the juice is worth the squeeze then it most certainly could. Practice areas like these would provide an appropriate zone to get that confidence needed to pass your driving test and become a safe, respectable user of Irish roads. It is not all bad though. The RSA must be praised in recent years for the way they have tackled driving in Ireland. Deaths are down, awareness is up. We currently have the sixth safest roads in Europe.
With what might be described as a lax period at the moment, learner drivers are reasonably free to roam the highways and byways of Ireland largely uninhibited by the lawful eye of the Gardai. However, such conditions will be history with the Gardai soon predicted to begin clamping down heavily on unaccompanied learner drivers, once the RSA send on their recommendations for implementation of such practice. Don’t get me wrong, unaccompanied drivers are illegally using the road and I fully understand why. Yet, if you don’t drive on your own and land at the test centre, Provisional License in hand, to attempt your test with little experience of driving independently; What hope do you have?