gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for July 5th, 2006

Graduated licensing in Ontario

July 05, 2006 @ 18:57 By: gordon Category: General

Like most people I know, I obtained my driver’s license prior to the implementation of graduated licensing in the province of Ontario. This meant that from the moment I received my license, I was able to drive on 400 series highways at 2am on my own. However, since April 1, 1994, newly licensed drivers have not been able to legally do this because of the graduated licensing system.

Under the graduated licensing scheme, new drivers start a two-step process that takes at least 20 months to complete and must be completed within five years. The system “lets new drivers get driving experience and skills gradually”, according to the MTO. Assuming you’re at least 16 years old, pass a vision test and a knowledge test of the rules of the road and signs, you will receive a Class G1 license.

A Class G1 license allows the holder to drive a vehicle provided that they have no alcohol in their bloodstream, are accompanied by a reasonably sober (less than 0.05%) fully licensed driver who is the only other person in the front seat, but doesn’t allow them on 400-series highways or highspeed expressways such as the QEW, Don Valley, Gardner or a couple of others I’ve never heard of. And, they cannot drive the vehicle between midnight and 5am. If the person sitting next to you is a driving instructor licensed in the province of Ontario, you are allowed to drive on the “prohibited” roads.

You have to hold a G1 license for at least 12 months, unless you’ve passed an approved course in which case you can reduce this to 8 months. After this 8 or 12 month period has passed, you get to try a G1 road test. If you pass it, you get a Class G2 license.

A Class G2 license allows the holder to drive on any road in Ontario without a “co-pilot” provided that they have no alcohol in their bloodstream and do not have more passengers in the vehicle than working seatbelts, which is also a condition for the G1. As of September 1, 2005, there are limits on the number of “young passengers” (19 years old or under) a G2 driver 19 years or under can carry between midnight and 5am. G2 drivers who are 19 years or under who have had a G2 for less than six months can only carry one young passenger. Once they’ve had their G2 for more than six months or turn 20, they can carry three young passengers. There’s an exception to this rule if the passengers are immediate family members or if there’s a fully licensed G driver onboard.

Once you’ve had a G2 for at least a year, you can try a G2 road test, which will give you a full G license if you pass.

You’re probably asking yourself “so what?”.

Well, I’ve noticed over the last few years that the number of drivers on the Queensway who travel along at 80 to 90 km/h has markedly increased since I got my license under the old system in the mid- to late-80’s. I have been speculating that this is a result of the graduated licensing system. Drivers who have been driving on a G1 for a year or two probably haven’t had a whole lot of experience driving at speeds in excess of 80 km/h. When they finally graduate to a G2 license, they are able to drive on roads with speed limits 25% higher than they’re used to. Consequently, they tend to drive in their comfort zone, rather than at the 100 km/h speed limit found on 400 series highways and highspeed expressways. I don’t have any empirical data to support this, of course, just a gut feeling based on a steadily increasing incidence of drivers travelling below the speed limit, primarily on the 417 in Ottawa, when 100 km/h is appropriate to the road and weather conditions.

The Ministry of Transportation’s website claims that the graduated licensing system has been a “resounding success” and reduced death and injury among new drivers. Their research also shows a link between the number of teenage passengers onboard and the likelihood of a serious or even fatal collision, with new teenage drivers being nearly three times as likely to experience such a collision. That’s why the G2 has restrictions on when and how many young passengers a G2 driver can carry.

I have no doubts that the graduated licensing system has indeed had an impact on the accident rates for new drivers. But at the same time, I believe it’s producing drivers who are less confident in driving at 400 series/expressway speeds, which has potentially significant ramifications to other drivers on these roads. Drivers who drive below the speed the rest of the traffic is moving at are just as dangerous as those who weave in and out of traffic. They lead to other drivers having to break unexpectedly for no reason other than they’re travelling too slowly.

What I’d like to see are some statistics correlating driving speed on a 400 series/expressway, license class and years that class has been held. I think the real story would emerge then. Perhaps some sort of voluntary black-box vehicle tracking system which was excluded from being used against the driver if they did get stopped for some moving violation, would allow statistics to be gathered on driving habits and new drivers.

If the statistics on young drivers and teenage passengers are true, then I would have no problems with restrictions similar to those in the G2 license being in force if the graduated system were scrapped. At most, it would inconvenience new young drivers for a couple of years.