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October 21st, 2009:

An argument for periodic driving tests

It seems to me that driving skills in my part of the world are deteriorating. This could be due to the aging of the population – more oldsters on the roads. Could be due to a dumbing down of driver training – though I don’t have any evidence for that. But, IMHO, outside the threat of punitive consequences (i.e., fines and tickets) and the need to preserve one’s health, there is no reason for drivers to maintain or better their skills.

Elderly drivers need to retake tests every couple of years or so. If you have “A” license in Ontario, you need to write the test and have a physical every 5 yrs. But what about you and I? Normal drivers of normal cars and light trucks”? What is in place to ensure that our skills and knowledge is up to date?


I’ve had my license since December, 1977. Almost 32 years behind the wheel. I have owed and driven many types of vehicles in all types of situations. Snow, rain, daytime, night-time, freezing rain, traffic tie-ups. I’ve had near misses and have been in 2 very minor fender benders – both of them my fault. I have had only ONE speeding tickets over those years despite my penchant for sped on the 400 series highways (I stick to the limit in residential areas). So does someone like me, with all of my experience, need some re-training?

Hell yeah. Probably.

So what about those folks who are newer to driving or new to Canadian driving conditions or are not as confident as I am behind the wheel? I would guess that the importance of rechecking these drivers is even more imperative.

Yeah, I know. If the province were to institute mandatory driver retraining/testing, there would be howls about this being another tax-grab. This government has sure acquired a rep for this (see mandatory boat operators permits for an example of this). But this a public safety issue and should be seriously addressed.

Why am I writing about this?

On the way back from dropping off the little one at daycare, St. Laurent Blvd. was blocked off by the cops and other emergency vehicles.  Found out later that a speeding motorist had struck and seriously injured an 11 year old girl walking across the street on her way to school about 2 km away and the driver had sped away down St. Laurent – only to be stopped in front of Hawthorne PS.

Hope the kid is OK.

Rules at stop signs – read carefully!

Watch for yourself the next time more than one vehicle arrives at the stop sign at the same time. More often than not, there is overall confusion over which vehicle has the right-of-way. Hands wave, lights flick on and off, horns honk. It’s chaos.

OK. Not quite chaos, but you get the picture.

Here is what you do at a stop sign intersection (though note that I am not a professional driving instructor. I have made some of these rules up. And I absolve myself of all personal injuries that may arise if some dimwit actually pays attention to the text below):

  • Stop. Yes, even if you have been at the intersection a gazillion times and have seldom seen a pedestrian or another car and cannot understand why there if even a stop sign here in any case. You still have to stop. Completely. Or damn close to it.
  • The first vehicle at the stop is the first to go through the intersection. Even if you’re from the East Coast where all the drivers are so damned polite that they spend 10 minutes or so trying to convince the other driver that THEY should proceed first. Please stick to this rule. I know you’re being nice, but you will eventually cause an accident. A disgustingly polite driver will wait for you even though you both know that it is his or her turn to go. I can imagine him or her stopping for a child, and waving the child into the path of a speeding dump truck. Such politeness confuses any driving situation. It can hopelessly muddle a four-way stop situation, unless you follow this advice: Flip him or her the appropriate salute, and go.
  • If vehicles arrive at the same time, the one on the RIGHT goes first. Simple.
  • There are a few permutations here from a cool guide I found written by someone who may have known what he or she was saying):

    1. He or she is on your right and you’re turning right. Go.

    2. He or she is on your right and you’re not turning right. Wait.

    3. He or she is straight ahead; and he or she is going straight or turning right; and you’re going straight or turning right. Go.

    4. He or she is straight ahead and he or she is turning left or you’re turning left. Wait.

    5. He or she is on your left and he or she is turning right. Go.

    6. He or she is on your left and he or she is not turning right. Wait

  • Pedestrians seem to really mess drivers up. If I get to the intersection second, yet the first car is waiting for a pedestrian to cross, what do you do? Go or wait for the first one to proceed after the walker has cleared the crosswalk? You won’t see them lining up and going one at a time. They just keep walking right on through the intersection, dodging cars. While pedestrians slow down the normal clockwork of the four-way stop, they also introduce a logical puzzle to the situation. If you are about to go, and a pedestrian walks in front of you, how does that affect the order of who goes when? Do you get to go first once the pedestrian is out of your way? Should all the other cars wait for you? Or, have you lost your place and must wait for 3 more cars to go. This guideline should help: “If you have to wait for a pedestrian, you are now a time-bomb waiting to go off. To minimize the loss of life, you should be allowed to go first.”
  • If it’s your turn, go. If not, try to imagine what can go wrong if you do go, and then go if you didn’t just imagine your own death.