Behind the Wheel

Behind the Wheel
  By Jessica Peddle

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It's the moment you've been waiting for. You're finally old enough to qualify for your driver's license and you're anxious to get behind the wheel. You can already see yourself - sunglasses on, of course - with a car-load of friends, the music turned up as high as it will go, cruising to your favourite hangout . . . to freedom. It's easy, right? You just get someone to teach you the basics then pass the test. Soon you'll be flying around town in no time flat.

Think again. Before you put yourself in control of a machine that weighs on average more than 3000 lbs you have some things to learn and tests to pass. And you can't do it alone.

Years ago, when it was time to learn how to drive, the only instruction available was most likely from your dad or another relative - someone who had been driving for a long time and who was willing to put their life into your hands for a couple of hours while you drove around an empty parking lot. Such "driving lessons" usually ended in yelling, occasional tears and possibly a dent in a light pole or two.

"Personally, I know there was less pressure to drive with someone I didn't know as an instructor than if it was one of my parents," says Colin Nelson,* a 21-year-old new driver in St. John's, NL. "And if I had to do it all over again, I still wouldn't get in the car with anyone before driving with a qualified instructor."

So just what can "qualified instruction" offer a new driver? You are being taught by someone who knows the correct and current rules of the road and who has been trained in the best ways to teach driving. Often they have a special car outfitted with dual pedals (just in case the instructor has to take control) and can offer extensive classroom instruction. For some novice drivers anxious to put the pedal to the metal, the classroom lessons can seem like a waste of time. This isn't always the case.

"At least twice now I've used what I had be taught in the in class teachings to avoid an accident," says Nelson. "[These were] techniques I am sure I wouldn't have known otherwise or picked up. If not for the classroom sessions, I can guarantee my car would have been written off."

The most important fact is that the instructor has helped many student drivers get over the fear and excitement of driving a car for the first time and see it for what it is: a serious endeavor that requires a combination of hand-eye coordination skills, vehicle handling abilities and traffic knowledge. Another bonus of going to a qualified driving instructor that's not related to you: no worries about getting grounded for taking out that tree.

Still, many new drivers opt to go the "no-cost" route and decide against formal driving instruction. Certainly being taught by a relative or a friend is cheaper than

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