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Should provisional drivers have to display a “P”? No.

January 19, 2011 @ 00:02 By: gordon Category: In the news

The Globe and Mail has a story about about an eighteen-year old grade 12 student who is championing a proposal to require drivers who have a provisional license, like a G1 or G2, to display a sign with a “P” on it when they’re driving a car. He came up with the idea while on vacation in Australia where they have a similar requirement.

In most cases this wouldn’t be terribly newsworthy, but this isn’t most cases.

Alex Don has used his connections from when he was a page at the Ontario Legislature to garner political support for his proposal. According to the story, five MPPs are supporting this, along with City of Burlington councillors and the chief of Halton Regional Police Service. Also supporting him is a teacher at his high school who coached the school’s soccer team. Two boys on that team were killed in a car accident a couple of years ago. With all this support, there’s a fair chance that his proposal will be introduced as a private member’s bill by Kevin Flynn, MPP for Oakville, in February.

But will it actually result in safer roads? While I’d like to say it will, I fear it won’t. And it might actually have some unexpected consequences.

The intent of the “P” is to alert other drivers that there is a driver that’s still learning so they should be extra careful around them. But a driver who runs a red or blows through a stop sign isn’t going to change their behaviour just because the other car has a “P” on it – assuming they can even see it before the t-bone the learning driver.

And it won’t stop drivers with a G1 or G2 license from violating the provisions of their license, such as driving on 400-series highways or driving with a blood alcohol level greater than 0.0.

British Columbia has a similar program where new drivers are required to display an “N” for the first two years after getting their license. (They have to display an “L” while in the graduated licensing system.) Some parents there are concerned that their children – their daughters in particular – might be stalked by people who see the “N”, so they’re telling their children not to display the decal. If a new driver is caught without their “N”, they’re subject to a $109 fine, which these parents are prepared to pay.

If the “P” program is implemented in Ontario, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of parents here objecting for similar reasons, even if there aren’t any cases in BC to justify this concern.

Frankly, I’d rather see a program to increase enforcement of the existing traffic rules, particularly for people who don’t make proper stops at stop signs or run through red lights, than a program to put a “P” on cars driven by provisional drivers. I think it would be much more effective in reducing accidents and deaths on the roads.

5 Responses to “Should provisional drivers have to display a “P”? No.”


  1. You do realize that part of the N/P/L/whatever program is to help enforce the existing rules about where people on provisional licences can drive?

    The stalking argument is just silly. Those daughters are much more likely to be stalked for being out on the town alone dressed in skanky clothing – a situation much more likely to get them noticed than some card in the window of their car. Evidently, the $109 fine is insufficient. I agree with your assessment that people may object here, but that’s fine. Make it a $100 fine with 3 demerit points. Get caught a few times and you lose your licence (provisional drivers are limited to 6 points IIRC).

    While I agree that we need better enforcement of existing rules, a lot of the world has a novice driver warning program and it seems to work for them. Even NASCAR makes rookie drivers put a yellow stripe on their bumper.

    • gordon says:

      Yes, I’m aware of that, but I’m skeptical that it will actually have the desired results. True, it will make it easier for police to identify provisional drivers on a 400-series highway, but it’s probably not going to have a significant impact on accident rates for provisional drivers. Oh, and if those provisional drivers have a designated driver with them, allowing them to be on a 400-series highway, will they still have to display the letter?

      In the story I mentioned, one of the supporters picked up the cause because two students at his school were killed in a car accident. I doubt that having an N/P/L/whatever would have changed whether the accident took place.

      If the goal is to make it easier to enforce where they can drive then they should be saying that right up front rather than making statements like Mr. Flynn’s “I think it tells other drivers on the road, there’s somebody who’s just learning. I’m going to be a little extra careful around them.”

  2. pete brown says:

    This might just announce to the tailgaters just why the hell the driver in front of ’em has the nerve to drive the limit…

    • gordon says:

      It might, but should the effort be spent on telling people why the driver in front of them might be travelling at the speed limit or why they should be travelling at the speed limit, too?

  3. pete brown says:

    Well, the effort should be spent on integrating new drivers onto our highways; roads full of aggressive drivers hellbent on making it to the stop light first. If these ‘newb’ signs allow new drivers to focus on the road rather than the driver they’re “holding up”, perhaps their use should be encouraged.



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