By Kyle Muzyka
As a small-town Albertan, one of the first feelings of freedom came when I passed my road test and obtained my Graduated Driver’s Licence (GDL).
The roads were my oyster.
The basic GDL meant I could legally drive without supervision, but I could not consume any alcohol prior to driving, nor could I drive with more people than seatbelts available.
To gain these privileges, I, along with any other young driver, have to take an additional test.
After two years of driving with a basic GDL, drivers have the opportunity to upgrade to an advanced GDL. The advanced GDL was successfully implemented in May 2003. It holds no restrictions and allows the possessor to test for other licenses, as well as drive with a blood-alcohol level of below .05.
Yet, some young drivers refuse to take the advanced exam.
Many cite cost outweighing benefits as reasoning behind refusal to take the test.
The cost is anywhere from $109.52 in Airdrie to $130.95 in Calgary — not including the price of a new licence, which would cost an additional $84.54.
Statistics show a potential need for reaffirmation of skills amongst young drivers. Those aged 16-24 were most likely to be involved in both fatal and injury collisions, according to a 2013 report released by Transportation Alberta. Their rates were 1.5 times higher than the 25-34 age group.
Additionally, 87 per cent of all collisions involved at least one driver committing a driving error.
But does paying over $130 to take an advanced road test combat the increased risk for young drivers?
Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell using these statistics.
I searched for data regarding collisions between basic and advanced GDL drivers. If collision rates were a lot lower with advanced GDL drivers, it could prove the advanced road test’s worth.
Neither Transportation Alberta nor the Insurance Bureau of Canada keep statistics regarding drivers with basic GDLs and advanced GDLs. Because the information is not required in collision reports, the data is not be recorded.
There is no evidence suggesting the advanced road test makes any difference in the actions of young drivers.
Transportation Alberta has only made statistics available from 2011 to 2013 for the age group of 16-24 year olds, but with no seperation for the GDL and advanced GDL categories. The total amount of collisions has fluctuated each year, and the amount of people killed in collisions has increased every year.
Additionally, the data for young drivers has remained relatively stagnant over the three years, though collisions in the 20-24 age group actually increasing in number.
According to the reports, collisions caused by driver error are down two per cent in as many years, though the reasoning behind that is unclear.
A representative from the Ministry of Transportation declined comment on the topic.
As long as the statistics continue to point to little or no improvement in the habits of young drivers, it is safe to assume the advanced GDL licence is nothing more than an optional money-grab.
There is evidence to suggest a program to improve the habits for young drivers is necessary. The advanced GDL program is not the program of best fit.