How easy is it to get a driver’s license these days? In California, the Department of Motor Vehicles goes out of its way to be accommodating, offering materials in a variety of foreign tongues. Once they review the materials, the applicant takes a simple, multiple-choice exam, and after passing that small hurdle takes a very basic driving test where the most challenging portion might be parallel parking. And if a student is parking challenged, Ford’s new Active Park Assist system will even help do the job with electronics.
Despite all of California’s accommodations, the Golden State still considers driving a privilege, not a right of residence. So while licenses may be quickly given, at least by the apparent lack of driving skills on our roads and highways, the authorities are quick to rescind those same privileges. If you are a teen driver with just a trace of alcohol, your license is pulled until adulthood. And adults that are arrested for drunk driving, even without proof and before their day in court, must fight the DMV to temporarily regain their license.
California is not unique in its mix of easy licensing and tough DUI standards; other states have similar approaches. And it’s fair to say that all states have driver training and testing regimens that are far below European standards. The fact that our motoring death rates have receded in recent years has more to do with safety equipment in new cars than any improvement in driver skill or attention to the road.
In this light, it was disheartening to learn that the Michigan legislature is considering forcing driving students in that state to spend time learning “the importance of carpooling and transportation” along with “identifying the attributes of a fuel-efficient vehicle” and “recycling vehicle parts and fluids,” among other non-driving learning. Since we’re talking about mostly youthful learners, it’s more than likely that they’ll not only have a foundation in politically correct thought, but are already frequently lecturing their parents on ways to save our endangered planet.