In response to a downright idiotic segment on CNBC today, I’d like to explain how to fix our automobile accident (and other) problems, simply and succinctly. I’ll give you a hint. It does not involve:
- giving fines/points for driving while on your cell phone/shaving/eating/etc
- increasing fines/points for driving while talking/shaving/eating/etc
- limiting what devices automakers can put in cars
- lowering speed limits
- increasing penalties for speeding/reckless driving/etc
Wanna know THE solution?
MAKE IT HARDER TO GET A DRIVER’S LICENSE! That’s right. Increase driver education/experience requirements and make it more expensive to obtain a driver’s license.
Do you know how easy it was for me to get my driver’s license when i was 17? It was a absolute joke! At 16, I got my driver’s permit, and then had to drive around with a guy who was probably at least half-drunk in the passenger seat with a 2nd brake pedal for like 3 or 4 hours total. Then I took a written test that I’m sure most 12 year olds could pass. Then came the literally 5 minute-long “driving test,” on a closed-course, which evaluated my ability to handle such complex and realistic maneuvers as:
- Turning on, and putting the car into gear
- Driving straight
- Stopping completely at a stop sign, looking both ways, and then executing a proper “hand over hand” turn
- Making another turn or 2 “at speed” (10, 15 mph, tops)
- Parallel parking in an ENORMOUS coned-off “parking spot” with zero traffic in front, behind, or zooming past me (because that’s how it is in reality, right?)
- Put the car in reverse to demonstrate proper way of backing-up “straight” for about 25-50 feet (I say straight in quotes because I’m pretty sure you’d have to back up like a complete drunk to fail this part of the test)
- Driving the vehicle around the rest of the closed course and putting it into park at the end.
The last, and only thing stopping me then was waiting in line with the other
plebes people, passing a “vision test”, and, wait for it, paying a ~$30 fee et voila, I had earned my driver’s license!
I was now free if not encouraged to go out and use these supremely unimpressive skills on real roads with all the other similarly unskilled crazy New Jersey drivers. That ANYONE wonders why teens have the highest accident and accident-related fatality rates of any age group is a complete mystery to me. Under our current system, it’s like:
“Gee, let’s take 17 year old kids with all of a few hours of “driving” experience – kids with their friends in the back seat, the stereo blasting, and/or their iPhones in-hand texting their friends – and set them forth onto the roads of America to encounter situations they’ve never even imagined before, this is a FANTASTIC idea, how could it possibly go wrong?!”
Give me a break…
How about this:
Instead of any letting any poor schmuck who wants to start a “driving school” spend a few hours “teaching” your kid how to drive, we require people to learn how to really drive. You know, learn about vehicle dynamics, situational awareness, emergency maneuvers, defensive driving, and last but not least, the importance of patience and courtesy on the road.
After learning about these things in the classroom, people would be required to learn and practice them in real life, first on a closed course and then on the roads. Finally, they would take both a written and driving test, just like now, except it would be much harder and more realistic.
Then, instead of charging $30 for a licensing fee, make it more like $100, hell, we could have graduated licenses that allowed you to get away with left lane priveleges and ability to go 130% of the posted speed limit without getting a ticket (ok graduated licenses are a pipe dream, but it would be cool!).
While we’re at it, we should require mandatory re-testing every 5 years after one turns 65 or 70 to retain one’s license. Slap a fee on that, too, let’s call it $30 or something.
So, what would this change?
- Over time, both total and average driver skill would increase
- Accident rates (and likely magnitudes) would decrease
- Emergency/accident response costs, injuries, and deaths would decrease
- Travel delays from both accidents and congestion would decrease, both in terms of frequency and magnitude
- Road maintenance costs may decrease (with less vehicles on the road)
I fail to see how any if even one – let alone all – of these things happened it would be anything short of miraculous.
Sure, liberals may (read: will) argue that implementing such a changes discriminates against those in lower-income brackets (and I’m sure they’d make it a racial issue while they’re at it), as the cost of better driver education programs would more adversely affect them than the more affluent. To these liberals, I say: tough, the positives far out-weigh the negatives.
There is nothing in the Constitution that guarantees every man, woman, and high school senior the right to run me off the road when they switch across 4 lanes at a time without signaling.
If people can’t afford the increased driver education costs, save up some money and take public transportation for a while until you can. I’ve taken & still take ALOT of public transportation, even though I can afford not to, and I know its not always fun, but whatever, you deal with it one way or another. Or, move closer to work. There’s a TON of people who live tens of miles from where they work, most often because they can get more home for the buck. That’s nice, but if you’re a danger to yourself and everyone else on the road, you shouldn’t be allowed on it.
Back of the envelope, I’d estimate that increasing the cost/requirements for obtaining a license will result in driver’s licenses granted decreasing somewhere around 30% or so, which is why I’d suggest increasing the licensing cost roughly 3x. How this really works out is anyone’s guess, but the fee could be increased/decreased so any decrease in volume is made up by a higher fee.
On the question of who bears the cost of better driver education, I think it would take care of itself nicely. A few hundred invested on a Skip Barber (etc) type course today would be offset by lower insurance costs tomorrow, and the lower probability of getting into an accident would lower the expected value of any outlays to cover the costs thereof.
Having better drivers on the road is a benefit for everyone on the roads, the people who take the bus, drive, ride their bike, and walk. It would be a huge public benefit to everyone! Accidents would decrease, injuries and deaths would decrease, commute times would decrease, pollution would decrease, productivity would increase from less time spent in traffic, gas price may even go down from reduced demand (although to what degree, if any, is up for debate), and the cost of dealing with/cleaning up accidents would decrease.
If the trade-off to get all of these widely-public benefits is that some people who can’t afford driver education and/or acquire the skill/knowledge required to pass the more stringent requirements can’t get their licenses in the blink of an eye, I think that’s a pretty damn good trade.