The Plight of the L-plater

I’ve had my learner’s license for a long time now. Some might say a ludicrously long time. Some heartless people may even laugh if I tell you I’ve had it so long that it’s expired once already and needed to be renewed. But let me assure you, it is not from being unable to achieve the ridiculously high number of recorded hours in NSW. It’s not from any retarded motor skills or eye condition. I have extremely good vision, in fact, and am a pretty skilled driver, if I do say so myself, if a little speedy at times. No, it’s none of these reasons. It’s mostly apathy, actually. I just never really bothered. And now that I have Tim to drive me every which where I can’t get at by public transport, I’ve seen even less reason to upgrade to being able to drive on my own. So, as I watched all my friends, from as early as our senior years in high school, more than 5 years ago, getting their P plates (we have two over here) and having their parents buy for them their first cars, because they’re rich, I’ve only had occasion to drive myself somewhere when it just so happened a parent or other full licensed driver was with me, and purely for my own driving pleasure.

But this extended period, I feel, has put me in a unique position to champion the rights and protest the injustices that are done to these poor L-platers, myself included.

Since we came to Sydney, my parents have given Tim and I use of my Mum’s car, as long as she isn’t working. This is very kind of her! It’s given Tim and I a lot of freedom, such as it is, to be able to get out of the house when we’re developing some nasty cabin fever. Until recently, I was doing all of the driving in these situations, as Tim has his full license, so can be my supervisor, and it was thought that he was unable to drive our tiny car. So, as you can imagine, I’ve had even more time lately to come to realise just what a large percentage of full-licensed, and -gasp!- P-platers hate and overtly look down on these poor people who are, for the most part, teenagers, who are just beginning to learn the ropes of being in a very serious, and sometimes difficult situation.

I can think of numerous occasions in which I feel I was being looked down on as a learner-driver. I have been tailgated, as we all have. But I can guarantee you, not in the frequency that I have been recently. People will push behind you, no matter what speed you are doing, simply because, as they see it, if I’m an L-plater, I can’t POSSIBLY be going the speed limit, so without checking their speedometers just speed up to what they feel is the correct speed. In suburban streets this can potentially be VERY dangerous. On a one-lane road, where the speed limit is 50, I’m doing 60, and you’re pushing me to do 70 behind me, if a kid ran out in front of me, I might not be able to stop in time, and quite frankly, I’m so distracted by you that I might not even SEE them in time. And let me tell you, that sort of shit is NOT going to hold up in court OR my conscience. “Please, your Honour, I only killed that kid because the person behind me was pressuring me to go faster! I thought it would be okay!” Lemme tell ya, buddy. It’s not.

But as soon as I follow this mental path to its horrible conclusions and slow down, they start getting MORE aggressive. More aggressive? Where the hell are you going in such a hurry that you can’t get down this road 10 seconds slower?

The same sort of attitude is proven on three-lane highways and such as well. We have a very busy, very arterial road quite close to our house, that we find ourselves travelling along on a regular basis. I’ll be a- cruisin’, perhaps or perhaps not for a-bruisin’, at about 70, which is the speed limit, or because, as I admitted before, I do go a little too fast sometimes, MAYBE 75-80. Please don’t trace this blog and arrest me, officers! But lo-and-behold! The same bullshit attitude from before! Only this time, they have the room to do something about it. So, after tailgating me for a minute or so, they’ll over take me, right, and get this, right, right, this is the good bit, they’ll check their speedo and then SLOW DOWN.

Maybe I’m a little over sensitive, but seemed to me you just overtook me BECAUSE I AM AN L-PLATER. I am doing the same speed as everyone else. I am doing the same speed as YOU. But no, no, I’m probably a crappy driver, right, so you just GOTTA get in front. To be fair, aren’t I more likely to misjudge the distance when braking and hit you from behind, than slow suddenly and have you do the same? It just doesn’t make sense. And yet, people do it. It’s pure aggression. This has happened to me on many occasions.

What finally drove me to write this rant was an event that occurred last Saturday, as I drove Tim up to Newcastle, some 2 hours drive, to pick up an eBay item. It was cool, we both wanted to go, thought we’d make a day of it. Now, going back a few weeks there was some, uh, trouble, with a federal police officer, in which I recieved a speeding ticket while hurrying down to Canberra to see my renal- and heart-failing grandmother. I don’t wanna make excuses, honestly, I felt like the ticket was justified, even if Tim and my Mum didn’t. I just felt the dude could’ve been a little more lenient considering the circumstances. Which were, in particular, apart from my hospital bound grandma, that I was doing under 110 in a 110 zone, I’ve had my license for something like 4 or 5 years, AND everyone around me was going much faster. This was what annoyed me the most. I had been flashed at, tailgated, all kinds of things, by people who were really speeding. 120, 130, I don’t even know. But because I was an L-plater, and thus, MY speedlimit was supposedto be limited to 80, I got pulled over, I got the ticket. If I’d just removed my L-plates, like so many others I know who would’ve, no-one would’ve ever known.

But I don’t want to get too bogged down in the details. As I said, I felt like I deserved it, but the dude could maybe have been less of a dick about it. But the point was, I got a speeding ticket. Now, again, going back to the weekend of the Newcastle roadtrip, the speedlimit was 110. “Screw that!” thought Jess, “I’m not getting another ticket!” So I dutifully remained at 80, maaaaaybe 90 when I got really frustrated, for the entire trip. So, there I was, being a good, law-abiding L-plater, when some BITCH comes up behind me. I’m going sooooooo slowly, she thinks, so what can I do about it? The bitch starts flashing her headlights at me, and making hand gestures behind me. Not flipping me off or anything, just frustrated. I speed up to 95. “What do you want me to do, lady?” I think to myself, “I’m already speeding!” Finally this FIRST-CLASS BITCH gets the message that, no, I’m not going any faster for you, and overtakes me, speeding past me at what I can only assume is LIGHT-SPEED. I promptly flip her off, and begin grumbling to myself. Does she REALLY have to get to the beach in that kind of hurry? It took millions of years to form, lady, I think it’ll still be there if you take an extra twenty minutes.

Of course, I apologise if she really did have some emergency to get to. But consider her actions against mine in the previous scenario. Going to Canberra, we DID have an emergency to get to. We had no idea what condition my grandmother was going to be in when we arrived. If she’d even still be alive. And so, I was speeding as well, according to my plates. Not even going over everyone else’s limit! But never once did I harass any of the learners who were slowing me down by sticking to 80. Or the older cars and vans that just couldn’t go that fast. I overtook them if I had an opportunity, and I waited behind them if I didn’t.

And who gets the penalty? Me. Cause I didn’t lie, and take off my L- plates.

What really shits me, though, right, is the red P-platers. For those playing in Perth, we have two P-plates here. Red and green. Haha, yep, green Ps, gets funnier everytime. So you do your multiple choice test to get your Ls, do a ridiculous amount of hours, and six months to get your red Ps, a hazard perception test and another year to get your green Ps, and then some… other test? Or something? And another 2 years to get your full license.

So, let me remind you that I’ve been driving pretty steadily for what I’m going to call… 4 years? 4 years. At least. Four. Years. Let’s do the maths here, shall we? Assuming they all advanced as soon as the time limit was up, that takes 3 and a half years to get your full license. What I’m getting at here is that, I don’t really count the green Ps, ’cause that could be close time-wise, but almost ANY time I see a red P-plater tailgaiting me, or giving me guff for not going as fast or as… I don’t even know, as THEY want… chances are, I’VE BEEN DRIVING LONGER THAN THEM. I have MORE experience on the road than them. Going back to my introduction, it’s not like I can’t pass these tests. I just haven’t. But they assume, incorrectly, that I can’t drive just because I have my Ls. I have been driving since you were a tweenie, whippersnapper!

At this point, to Tim’s dismay, and others, I suspect, I’d like to use a Ctrl-Alt-Delete reference to illustrate my point. I won’t actually link it, mind, but I’ll give you the gist. Try to keep up.

It essentially described the difference, in online gaming, between ‘n00bs’ and ‘newbies’, ‘n00bs’ basically being gamers who are just, well, tools, and should be taught NOT to be tools, in whatever ways are most effective, mostly harassment; while ‘newbies’ are potentially valuable members of the gaming community who are simply trying to learn the rules and flow, structurally and socially, of a particular game, and should be encouraged and taught, that they might benefit the community once they get the hang of it.

Now, let’s apply this analogy to the world of learning to drive, shall we?

Harrassing L-platers is just WRONG. They aren’t doing anything, for the most part, I assume, to actively hurt you, or inconvenience you in any way. Just the opposite, in fact. If you see an L-plater going a little slow it’s not because they’re using their L-plates as an excuse just to piss you off. They are doing it because they just don’t feel SAFE driving that fast yet. If you tailgate, if you flash your lights, you are sending entirely the wrong message to a person who is new to this driving thing. People take driving for granted. It is NOT a videogame. If you hit someone, if you hit something else and injure or kill yourself or a passenger, you CANNOT just reload and try again. Next time you feel like a learner just isn’t going fast enough for you, imagine your son or daughter, or little cousin Beckie or that adorable little kid nextdoor that you always wanted to play with but never had a chance, imagine them running out in front of an L-plater, imagine them being killed, and imagine them turning to you and saying “I was being tailgated, what could I do?”

That is NOT the correct answer. And it is NOT setting a good example for these newbies. What goes around comes around. It isn’t karma, it’s just a fact. You give these learners shit now, when they’re the full licence holder, how many do you think will say to themselves “I’ll just relax and take it easy, I remember what it was like being a learner.” Not too goddamn many. They will relish the chance to get back some of what they took when they were teenagers. And maybe that’s why we’re in the position we are now. Someone’s gotta break the cycle, and just goddamn RELAX. Driving is serious, but it’s also fun. Just chill, listen to the radio, think of all you’re going to do today, or what you’re coming home to, and just relax.

I think I’ve been a little all over the place, I was basically just writing as it was coming. But I hope you all don’t mind my ranting. It’s just something that’s been getting to me a lot lately. Oh man, and I totally forgot the time I accidentally left the L-plates off, and before realising I’d done so, mentioned to Tim how “reasonable” and “patient” everyone was being today. True story. Coincidence? I think not.

So, at the risk of sounding a little preachy, next time you see a learner driver, just relax and remember, they’re only newbies.

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Externalised memory priestess from the elemental plane of pink. I hyperbolise every second of the day. On Twitter here.

4 thoughts on “The Plight of the L-plater”

  1. Having been on my L’s for like 4 years or something, and being 24, I get you, though I don’t and haven’t driven much so I’m still a newbie. I haven’t been exposed to any real jerks on the road but I’ve seen it happen to others. Being an L plater can really blow chunks. I don’t really have anything constructive to add. Oh, except I think we have green Ps here too!

    Also wanted to add that some of what you said about your skillz, as mad as they no doubt are, isn’t that relevant cause if you’re on your Ls you’re on your Ls. I know you weren’t arguing for it but I don’t think how long you’ve had your Ls should relevant to tickets and stuff. (This was mainly inspired by one hing you said and now I can’t find it cause my iPhone is being a dick.)

  2. Oh right its this bit:

    “…almost ANY time I see a red P-plater tailgaiting me, or giving me guff for not going as fast or as… I don’t even know, as THEY want… chances are, I’VE BEEN DRIVING LONGER THAN THEM. I have MORE experience on the road than them. Going back to my introduction, it’s not like I can’t pass these tests. I just haven’t. But they assume, incorrectly, that I can’t drive just because I have my Ls. I have been driving since you were a tweenie, whippersnapper!”

    That doesn’t really make sense with your point that L-platers are mostly just kids trying to learn and being harrassed. But I get your point, its not really about how accurately other drives perceive an L-plater’s skill level, but how they treat them given that perception. Really, I think all L-platers should be treated like there’s a 15 foot no-fly-zone around them, unless they are stopped at the lights 😛

  3. Great analogy Jessie.

    I agree with you 100%. Really road rage is so counterproductive and usually leaves both parties feeling like they want to strangle someone. Not cool. But I suppose a lot of people have a lot of rage in them, not that’s any excuse. Check your rage at the car door fellas.

    Sorry to hear about the Canberra ticket incident. Like you said he could’ve been compassionate considering the circumstances. Next thing you know they’ll book a guy for speeding while he’s wife is in labour next to him and they’re just trying to get to the hospital. I know the law supposed to apply to everyone and all that, but really? With the possibility of someones life in the balance? That just seems all sorts of wrong to me.

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