The Antics of Learner Drivers

Road Safety Article

I do not know if you had the time to browse through my piece on the antics of learners or learner drivers. If you didn’t, please I urge you to kindly source for the first part of my writeup, titled, Rules for Learner Drivers. Today, I have chosen to draw the curtain on the second part, titled, The antics of Learners.I do hope you will find it useful to guide.

Last week, I promised to discuss Graduated Drivers Licence. I also promised to cite examples from other Countries beside the Australian example. Before I do, let me first heave a sigh of relief that one week after the publication, I am yet to come under the sledgehammer from any of my readers. As I conclude on the piece today, let me fulfill my promises by throwing light on the Graduated Drivers Licence introduced by the Federal Road Safety Corps in 2007 as part of measures to restore the integrity of the drivers’ licence. 

Before this novelty, the relevant traffic regulations such as the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2004, Section 22, Sub 3-7, and Sections 23, 24, 25 and 26 provided for an applicant for the driver’s licence to meet the following conditions; be 18years and above, be physically and mentally fit, pass a driving test and pay the prescribed fee. After these, such an applicant will then qualify for a drivers licence valid for three years. 

However, in the face of the spate of road crashes in the country and the need to conceptualise new ideas in keeping within global best practice, the Corps through the driving school standardisation programme made it mandatory for fresh applicants to attend certified and approved driving school. The three stage Graduated drivers licence is the first in the Country and an improvement from what had existed before now. It is broken into three parts-The first part is the pre-adult (18-25) years category. 

Those within this group after complying with the relevant tests and other procedures as stated in the quoted sections, if found suitable, are issued with a driver’s licence that is renewed after every year. Applicants under this category are only qualified to pick up a private Class B licence. The second is the adult (26-64) years category. Driver’s licence issued to this category is renewable every 3years. Only applicants within this category are qualified to apply for a commercial driver’s licence.

However, for such applicants who already possess a class B(private) to qualify for a commercial driver’s licence, they must belong to a transport union, attend a driving school and pass a medical test in a government hospital. The last category is the post adult meant for people between the ages of 65 years and above. Like the pre-adult category, this group’s driver’s licence is renewable every year after proof of a medical test to ascertain medical fitness.

In Canada, Motor vehicles are provincially regulated and so regulations vary by province. In British Columbia, following the instructional phase and after passing a road test, new drivers are required to show a green N (for novice) plate until they have passed an additional road test, usually after 24 months.

Last week,I cited the example of Australia. Today,I wish to look at examples from Canada, the United Kingdom, and France among others. In Canada, Motor vehicles are provincially regulated and so regulations vary by province. In British Columbia, following the instructional phase and after passing a road test, new drivers are required to show a green N(for novice) plate until they have passed an additional road test,usually after 24 months.

In British Columbia, a red L (for learner) plate is required for 12 months before the N can be issued, and new drivers with this marking are not permitted to drive without a licensed driver over the age of 25 years present in the vehicle. In the case of France, after passing their driving test, learners must display an A-plate (for apprentice) for 3 years (2 years for those who learned with their parents.

In the case of the United Kingdom, all new drivers in Great Britain, upon receipt of a provisional licence, must display L plates at all times and be accompanied by another driver who is over 21 years of age and has held a full and valid licence for the type of vehicle being driven for at least three years. In Wales either red L plates or red D plates are permitted, due to the bilingual legislation in force within the Country, while a learner is driving the vehicle.

After learners have passed a driving test for the appropriate vehicle, they may opt to display green P-plates (P for passed) to show that they have less experience than other drivers. These plates are voluntary and not required by law or the Highway Code.

L plates are required to be displayed at all times whilst riding a motorcycle or moped of no more than 125 cc (7.6cu in) after passing motorcycle compulsory basic training (CBT). This sub-licence allows the holder to ride any motorcycle up to 125 cc without a full and proper licence. 

Therefore, it is mainly used by younger motorists (16-19) who are legally allowed to ride motorcycles up to 125 cc but cannot afford to buy full lessons to gain a restricted licence (enabling the holder to travel on motorways and carry pillion passengers but only able to ride motorbikes up to 33 hp (25 kw) after 20 years). Riders over 21 may opt to train for a full licence, therefore a CBT is just a ‘stepping stone’ to this.  

The story in Northern Ireland is almost similar. One year after passing the driving test,the driver is defined as a’ restricted driver’ who must not exceed 45mph and must display an ‘‘R-plate’’  consisting of a red sans-serif R on a white background. L-plates in Northern Ireland commonly have an R-plate as a reverse side. “R-plate” drivers are often viewed as a nuisance on motorways due to their limited speed, resulting in many restricted drivers not displaying their “R-plates” or not keeping to the restricted speed limit. In the Republic of Ireland, you can obtain a learners permit at the age of 17. Before applying for your first learners permit, you must pass a computerised Driver Theory Test.

Specifically, the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2004, mandates all learner drivers to observe the following rules: Attend a certified and approved driving school as a prerequisite to obtaining a fresh driver’s licence. In the course of this coaching, the learner driver must display an L-plate-which is a square plate bearing a sans-serif letter L, for learners, which must be affixed to the front and back of a vehicle in many Countries if its driver is a learner under instruction, or a motorcycle rider with provisional entitlement to ride restricted motorcycles. What this means is that this rule is a universal convention with slight variations from Country to Country. In the case of Nigeria, section 27, sub sections 1-3 of the National Road Traffic Regulations earlier cited spells out the details as applicable to learner drivers.

For the purpose of this piece, let me stress here that besides displaying an “L” sign, a learner driver when issued a learner’s permit, must be accompanied by a licensed driver-instructor sitting beside him to drive a vehicle or type stated in the permit from a period not exceeding three months from the date of issue within the highways specified in the permit. Besides these, the permit in itself forbids the learner from carrying any person no matter the level of affiliation except the instructor. In addition, the learner-driver must at all times comply with relevant traffic rules and regulations.

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