Licensed to drive

By David Thomson on Sat, 18 Feb 2017

There have been rite-of-passage celebrations in the Thomson household this week, with the youngest member of the family, Alex, moving from his learners to a restricted driver's licence after a successful practical driving test.

I well recall my own driving test and the excitement felt on passing, even though it is now 35 years since that event.

Gaining a driver's license was, like many things that long ago, simpler than today.

From the perspective of the parent of a newly-licensed driver, I am comforted by the complexity added between now and then. Even though the New Zealand system still lags behind that of, say Australia, in producing decently experienced newly-licensed drivers, we now have a graduated transition from learners to restricted, and then to fully- licensed status.

Alex secures the privilege of being able take to the roads on his own with around 70 hours of supervised driving time behind him, including a couple of hours of final pre-test polishing with professional AA driving instructor Craig Nicholls. Like many of his peers, he is now seeking to shave six months off the standard 18-month restricted license transition by completing a defensive driving course. This, conveniently, has been arranged by his secondary school.

Thankfully, Alex's restricted license conditions prevent him from driving with his mates in a car, from driving between 10pm and 5am, and from having even the slightest trace of alcohol in his system. While some restricted license holders may flout at least the first of these conditions, they are in place for a very good reason; research shows that the chances of a newly-qualified driver having an accident are greatly increased when one or more of these factors are in play.

Although transition to a full license has yet to come, a restricted licence provides motoring freedom for the whole family to celebrate; with Alex's new driving status, years of mandatory parental chauffeuring duties to sports trainings and events, school, and social engagements are at end. Instead, we have gained a willing errand runner for those occasions when we are unable, or can't be bothered, to pop out ourselves.

One of our regular routes to sports training includes the intersection of Forbury and Victoria roads, and as coincidence would have it, we had a family discussion about the merits of erecting a roundabout there only a day before plans to do so were revealed on the front page of the Otago Daily Times.

The pros (and some cons) of roundabouts in general, and this one in particular, have already been traversed by Dave Cannan in The Wash column, so I won't say much more, beyond noting that, as a motorist who drives through that often congested intersection several times per week, I am strongly supportive of the roundabout proposal.

I'd also urge city authorities to take a look at the roundabout that already exists at the intersection of Forbury and Hillside roads. This generally functions well, but becomes congested at the Hillside Rd entrance during peak hours. Congestion that would be eased by taking a metre or so from the ample verge that borders the entry point to provide a filter lane for traffic turning left from Hillside Rd on to Forbury Rd.

David Thomson