COLUMN: Regulations do not fix bad drivers

MORRISBURG — The Labour Day long weekend saw a number of fatal accidents across the province, just as fine increases and new driving regulations come into effect. The problem with all of the new and existing regulations is it does not and will not fix bad drivers on the road.

In the last 10 years, a number of regulations have been added to the Highway Traffic Act. Distracted driving, texting and driving, pulling over for emergency vehicles and tow trucks. Each time one of these initiatives have launched, there has been a campaign of “education” letting the public know of new rules and new fines attached with breaking them. Yet the stupidity continues. The fear of fines and demerit points do not deter people’s bad behaviours.

Fines punish people once they have done wrong; it does not prevent people from doing wrong. If police can spot bad behaviour, such as texting while driving, they can catch them before getting into an accident. However the police are not everywhere all the time. For every offender the police nab, how many keep texting and driving? Or distracted driving? Or poor driving habits.

As much as this writer is against more government intrusion into people’s lives, perhaps it is time to examine how people get their licences, and how often they are checked. The graduated licence program is expensive, one of the most expensive programs in the country. Yet the missing component is that driver training courses are not mandatory for a new driver to get their licence. Driver training courses are not cheap, running from $200 up to $1400. If the fees the province charges were lower, it would provide a financial incentive for new drivers to take a training course. More education is never a bad thing. Being taught how to drive by a parent or a friend, who may have bad driving habits, only passes those habits on to new drivers.

Once licenced with a “G” or an “M” class licence, you are not subjected to another test of your abilities until you turn 80. Once you turn 80, drivers have to do a driving exam every two years. For the average driver who gets their “G” or “M” licences when they turn 16, could potentially go 64 years without being tested! Compare that with other classes of driver’s licences, “A”, “B”, “D” or the air-brake “Z” endorsement on driver’s licences. Those tests, written and/or practical, occur at the time the licence is being renewed. If you don’t pass, you don’t get your renewal, but you can keep taking the test until you pass. If a simple rules test was included with the renewal fee for regular “G” and “M” class licences, it would at least flag those who may not be aware of changes to the rules of the road. It would also force people to educate themselves on the rules in advance and perhaps be more aware of them. State intervention in preventing stupidity should only be the last resort. That time may have now come.

Enforcement on the road needs to increase and that will cost money. The cost of putting more police officers patrolling the roads is minuscule to the resources required to deal with an accident, especially when you add in the medical costs and the value of life.

All of these things will not prevent accidents such as the one in Lancaster on the weekend, but it can cut down on many of the issues on the road. People have forgotten that having a driver’s licence is a privilege, it is not a guaranteed right. New driving regulations and increase fines do not fix bad drivers. Some people just shouldn’t be on the road.

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