Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What does your Plate say about you?

As I mentioned in my last post, Victoria has gone to a graduated licensing system which requires new driver's to display their license status in their front and back windscreens. What does that mean on the roads?

Well, here's my experience. If you see a car with a bright yellow L plate in the front or back window, then steer clear. This person is just learning to drive. They stop suddenly, they change lanes at a snail's pace and do all the random things that new drivers do. I find it extremely helpful to see the bright L plate in the window. This gives me a fair idea why the road has been clear for 3 minutes and they have still not entered traffic despite the line of cars waiting behind them. I feel less road rage towards these drivers because I can understand their plight--the bright yellow L explains it all to me. I think it's easier for other drivers on the road to watch out for the learners because of the special plate they must display and this, in my humble opinion, makes for safer roads. Let's face it, the kids have gotta learn, but that doesn't mean we don't need to know about it.

Now the more controversial group of drivers...the P Platers. This is the plate you have to display in your front and back windows when you pass the driving tests and are allowed to drive on your own. As I described in my last post, new drivers are put on provisional licenses here and they have to go through two stages of P plates. While the red colour indicates the first year of a provisional license, and the green colour indicates the subsequent three years, I don't discriminate between the two. A P Plater to me is still a P Plater no matter the colour of their plate. Here is a warning to my readers: what is about to follow is a list of gross generalisations about P Platers--I'm sure there are responsible, cautious and capable P Platers out there, I've just never met them.

When I see a P Plater on the road, I feel the need to be more aware than I do with even an L Plater. What the P Plater usually has that the L Plater doesn't is speed. P Platers are still relatively inexperienced drivers who don't have their parents or driving instructor sitting next to them and they are making the most of their new found freedom on the roads. We live on a long straight street here in Melbourne. We went through a patch where various cars were peeling out and speeding down our street late at night. We could never get outside fast enough to get their number plates, but you could see their glowing P plates in the distance as they sped off.

On the road, if someone is following too closely--especially at a high rate of speed, I'll often look back in my rear vision mirror and see the P Plate staring back at me. Then I change lanes and get the heck out of their way. I figure if they are feeling a need for speed, I don't need to be collected on their way through, thank you very much. Loud music coming from the car next to you, P Plater strikes again.

Now, I'm not saying I'm the most experienced best driver in the world, in fact the Handsome Australian would laugh me out of the room if he heard me making such a statement. I'm also not saying that I wasn't the same as these P Platers when I was the same age--always in a hurry, carelessly taking risks, playing my music too loud, etc.What I am saying is there is something to be said for experience and I'm really happy with the P Plate system here in Australia. I like the warning it gives me as a fellow driver on the road. I like the rigors it puts new drivers through and the high expectations it holds them to. I like the fact that you have to be 18 before you can even get a license. When I look back at my days as a learner driver at 15 years of age, and then a fully licensed driver at 16 back in Texas, I shudder. Who honestly thought that was a good idea?

As a parent now, I can truly appreciate the Australian approach.


Annelise said...

I would love that system to be here in the States. I also agree that 18 is a good age to start driving. I was driving at 15/16 with Kevin and Curtis teaching me to drive. Now HAM, we all know that was not a good idea at all!

Driving Instructor UK Driving School said...

We don't have that system in the UK either, you are either a learner drive (display red L plate) or you are a full licence holder. New drivers do have the option of displaying a green P plate if they have just passed their driving test.

suzinoz said...

It so wasn't a good idea.

suzinoz said...

Driving Instructor-
Interesting about the UK standards. I would have assumed them to be very much the same as Australia as most things here seem to be based on the British system. Thanks for your comment.

Sue McGettigan said...

LOL, I'm having the reverse experience, as an Aussie living in the USA my 16 year old got a driver's license - yikes!! She's 17 now and doing well, but I love the L plate and P plate system and wish they did it here! There's talk of increasing the driving age to 17, I think that would be much better ...

suzinoz said...

Thanks for your comment. As a Mum with young children, I'm thinking 21 or maybe even 30 would be a better age! 16 is so young! Good luck, hope she continues to drive well.