In an effort to keep the “Twin 63” movement alive I waited a while before posting this in The Blogs. I will start off by saying I am in full support of the accelerated twinning of Highway 63. I believe that the project is taking far longer than it should, will prevent accidents, and the lack of a timeline for full completion is unacceptable. As part of the debate, the suggestion of more enforcement personnel (RCMP and Sheriffs) should be on the highway to enforce the laws of the road. However, what has not been mentioned is driver re-training. What do I mean by this? Drivers on the road today have either forgot or never understood the rules of the road and how to safely operate a motor vehicle.
I am a professional pilot, to become licensed and be able to continually operate aircraft I had to go through a rigorous training program and constantly be re-certified. To learn to be a pilot I had to first go to a certified doctor and be subjected to a medical exam to prove that I am physically fit to operate an aircraft. Next, I had to go to a licensed flight instructor/flight school and receive 50 hours of flight training in specific phases of flight, take a ground school course for 40 hours on rules, weather, and the theory of flight; pass a 100 question multiple choice exam and pass a flight test (similar to a driving test). Only after all of this was I licensed to be a pilot. Yet that license only certified me to fly small aircraft, during the day, in good weather and could not yet fly as a profession, personal flights only. In order to fly at night, in inclement weather, larger aircraft, and fly for compensation I had to receive more flight training (200 hours more), more ground school, and pass more flight tests. To keep all of my qualifications I have to now every year receive 20 hours of ground school, 5 hours of flight training, pass a medical exam, plus pass a written exam and flight test specific to the aircraft I’m flying. Major airlines such as Air Canada and WestJet require their pilots to do this every 6 months! This is in STARK contrast to becoming a licensed driver in any Canadian province. Specifically in Alberta to receive a Driver’s License you must first receive a learner’s permit. This can be issued at age 14 by passing a vision and a 30 question rules of the road test (25 correct is a pass). That entitles you to drive a vehicle as long as accompanied by someone who has a full driver’s license NOT a certified driving instructor. Past this point there is no further written exam testing. Next to be able to drive without the fully licensed driver accompaniment, you must wait 1 year and then pass a driving test. That’s it! This is the same level as the first license level as a pilot I mentioned earlier. No where is there any requirement to receive classroom instruction nor driver training from a certified instructor.
Now I know what you’re saying “Well flying a plane and driving a car are two extremely different tasks.” and you’re right they are different, but not as much as you’d think. In many facets flying an aircraft is EASIER than driving down the road. Virtually every aircraft has a two way radio to communicate to other aircraft and air traffic control where you are and where you’re going. There are large distances between aircraft as well, they are not passing each other in opposite directions at at distances of a few feet like automobiles. Aircraft also have a multitude of instruments and technology which give you a picture of not only your aircraft but all others around you, the terrain and what your entire situation. Yet at the age of 16 with only a speedometer we give a person a license to drive any two axle vehicle on any road, at any time, in any weather conditions and as long as they pay their $60ish dollars every 5 years to renew their license they can drive for the rest of their lives!
So what am I suggesting? Take a page out of aviation, make it MANDATORY for new drivers to go through a classroom driving school in which they learn all about the rules of the road as well as to actually receive training from a certified driving instructor. Still have the required road tests that we have now, but at the end of the 5 years in which your license is valid you must pass another road test to renew your driver’s license. Failure of this test, depending on the severity of failure, would either downgrade your license to a learner’s level or suspend your license fully requiring you to complete the driving course again and pass another road test. With strict requirements such as this it would force all drivers to refresh their knowledge of the rules and safe driving habits, knowing that failure to do so would result in suspension of their licenses. To a further extent, in aviation the failure to adhere to even the smallest rules result in severe penalties; fines start at the $1000 range. If a ticket for speeding was $1100, failure to stop at a stop sign $2050, passing on a double line $3500, I guarantee drivers would not even consider doing such!
I fully believe that new driver education and mandatory retesting of all drivers along with severe penalties for violations would not only prevent accidents, injuries and loss of life on Highway 63 but in all of Alberta, all of Canada! Yes there will be a cost to the driver and the argument against retesting failure and harsh penalties is mostly “I need a vehicle to get to work & make a living”. I also need to pass my aircraft exams and flight tests to make my living as a pilot and I do so every year.
Driving is a privilege not a right!