Traffic fatalities so far this year in western Norway have been at an all-time high. 45% of the ones killed are between the ages of 15 and 25, and the main reason is speed. This is happening in a country that has mandatory and expensive driver’s training and exacting driver’s tests. It’s like the thousands of kroners spent on learning to drive (and the many hours) to get that precious license means absolutely nothing.
There are a few other things that I find questionable about how things are set up here: In Norway, you can vote, drive and drink – all at age 18. The local paper is running small vignettes with kids celebrating their 18th birthday and quite a few are so happy they are now old enough to drink. No, they can’t drink and drive, but one suspects that one reason for accidents with an adolescent behind the wheel are unruly passengers (who have been drinking).
One of the suggestions made about how to get young people to ease up on the gas pedal, is to get adolescent girls to speak up – for their own safety. I think this is a good idea, but I wonder how they will implement it.
The rules have changed in California since I first got my driver’s license, but there was one experience during driver’s training that I think is relevant today. My high school offered driver’s training and at no charge. Four kids and an instructor would get into the car once a week for two hours of practice together. One kid would drive for half an hour, and the three not driving would watch, listen and learn. You learn a lot from other people’s mistakes and a discussion with the instructor about it (Norwegians are always alone with their instructor). We were two girls and two boys. One boy tried to speed a bit and our instructor told him that he may want to find another way to show muscle. “Because speeding doesn’t impress the girls; it scares them,” our instructor said. “Isn’t that right, girls?” he asked us in the back seat. And we emphatically agreed. I could see by the two boys’ expressions that they hadn’t really considered this, and no one tried to speed again during our driver’s training. The two boys actually made the effort to be a bit more gentlemanly.
I can’t help but think that a learning situation like that (we were ages 15-16) would be helpful in Norway. It was a good way to learn about driving and it was a good way to learn about appropriate behavior for other reasons than getting from point A to point B.