Re: ‘Driving instructors hit back’ (January 7, 2008)
The Hamilton Spectator

I take exception to Gurdip Atwal and Dez Miklós calling the new requirements for driving instructors “draconian.”

I am a professional driver. I am not a driving instructor. I drive a tractor-trailer. I see so much stupidity on the roads every day that tightening the requirements for driving instructors is only the beginning of what can be done to improve safety on the roads.

Atwal states that in his professional capacity he drives “60,000 to 70,000 kilometres per year … And when you do that, there is a very good chance … you are going to get some minor offences like this.” I beg to differ. As a truck driver who drives an average of 100,000 kilometres per year, in addition to the 20,000 to 30,000 kilometres per year in my personal vehicle, I expect to behave myself well enough on the highways and byways to get no offences whatsoever. That’s a lot further than Atwal is driving, and probably in more jurisdictions.

Admittedly, I will not lose my licence (and my livelihood) over two or three demerit points, but my company will lose its good insurance ratings. I will lose my good insurance ratings. I will lose safety bonuses. My company will (potentially) lose clients if our commercial ratings (CVOR) decline. And if I persist in my bad habits, I will lose my livelihood as I become unemployable by way of my own driving record.

Driving instructors should not only teach good driving habits, they should also practise them, leading by example. We all know that the old bromide “Don’t do as I do; do as I say” doesn’t work. Sure, we all make mistakes once in awhile — that is why there is not a traffic enforcement officer at every intersection every hour of every day. It’s the universe’s way of cutting us all a bit of slack now and then. But gentlemen, make no mistake: As instructors, like those of us who drive the “big rigs,” you are held to a much higher standard. That standard is “zero tolerance.” And it is not a “draconian” requirement, but a necessary one.

Helen Thorpe