Life. Death. Your decision.
This was the main thought that raced through my head as I entered the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority. Enthusiastically, I stared at the plastic red P’s on the stand near my seat as I waited for my driving tester person to usher me to the car. I hoped that they were not too far from my reach and that I would be deemed a ‘safe and cautious’ driver at the conclusion of my test.
Switching off my ignition and taking I few long and satisfying breaths I followed the instructor up to the RTA’s office.
“You have passed.”
What a relief!
Now don’t get me wrong, I was exhilarated! I had a smile beaming across my whole face and felt very satisfied to be replacing the cardboard L plates with more sturdy plastic P plates. I had become independent within my community and more helpful to my non-driving friends. I loved offering people a lift home, just because I had the freedom to do so.
However, along with the whole excitement of being more flexible with my friends and our social life, over the next few weeks I felt this massive wave of responsibility sweep over me. I was in control of a weapon. It had the potential for great destruction and I had never really considered that before.
The main thing for me was the knowledge that when I drove other people I was responsible for their life. They had no control over the car or my decisions when I was driving. This was huge for me and I dealt with it by not driving too many people around all at once; just until I got used to having to make my own decisions on when to change lanes and all those difficult things like that!
Also, when I went out with my friends I naturally became the designated driver. I had to concentrate super hard when driving at 2am in the morning, being careful of other drivers whilst trying to find my way to my friends’ houses with them being rowdy in the backseat.
Other factors that have impacted me as well as my other P-plated friends include:
- The recent hike in petrol prices (Sept, 2005). Some of my friends have decided to car pool to and from uni or school to save money. They find this a very effective action and even enjoy spending that extra time with their pals!
- Contribution to national pollution levels. Even though I like driving and feel more independent, when I can travel quicker and more effectively to a location by public transport, I consciously try and do so. I’m not a greenie but there is no point in contributing unnecessarily to the enormous pollution problem.
- The new ‘0 alcohol limit’ for all plated (L and both green and red P) drivers (NSW). This means NO alcohol for ANY driver when they are going to get behind the wheel. Keeping my friends and myself accountable is the most important thing.
- Maintenance of a car. Gee, these costs are huge! I have friends who just work to pay off their car fees. That’s petrol, new wheels, insurance, registration and services etc.
- Family curfews. I know that sometimes I have to be home before 4am to keep my parentals (parents) happy. Over-tiredness is something that is real and I have only really become aware of it and its effects as I have began to drive home/places in the early hours if the morning.
All things considered, getting and having my P plates is an extraordinary thing. By choice, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now, everytime I get into the car, I always try to remember:
Not to underestimate the power or capabilities of my vehicle, and also that when I am driving with other people in the car I have someone else’s child to care for. They have trusted me with their life. And how precious every life is!