While droozling along behind a student driver this evening at 15 mph in a 45 mph zone, it occurred to me that we can do better in letting the normal drivers of the world know about the experience level of the young adults in our midst.
I understand the need for novice drivers to learn out there in the real world. I taught three kids to drive. I know what it’s like to be in the passenger seat, my head on a swivel, reeking of wisdom and experience, desperately trying to keep the flop sweat from drowning me.
The problem for the experienced driver is that a simple “STUDENT DRIVER” sign on the back of that car doesn’t tell you nearly enough. I need more information!
Is this a kid who just finished their written exam, doesn’t have parents who have taken them out to a big, empty, relatively obstruction free shopping mall parking lot for a little bit of practice before hitting the road, and they’re on their first five miles on real streets, terrified, seeing their (short) life passing before them?
Or is it a kid who’s already got several hundred hours from parking lot to surface streets to stop-and-go traffic to cross-country interstate and they’re ready for the Indy 500, just taking the stupid driver’s ed hours because they can’t get their license without that certificate?
In other words, is our student driver a “1” or an “11”?
Their instructor should know that. So put an electronic sign on the top of the vehicle where the instructor can let the rest of us in on the secret! On a bad day, maybe the kid starts out as a “6,” but they’re not on their game and they’re thinking about how they broke up with their girlfriend, so the instructor’s going to let the rest of us know by knocking them down to a “4.” Maybe they finally “get it” and they’re keeping in their lane and they’ve figured out how that little stick thingie can make the clicking noises and made those little lights on the four corners of the vehicle flash, so while they started out a “5,” today they’re driving like an “8.”
If you’re going to do this, don’t be skimpy on that electronic sign. Don’t limit it to just one digit, or even two. Make it three. And give the instructor an option to have it display “SOS.”
Or better yet, for those extra special days, “9-1-1!!”