Jan. 13, 1992: Only Alberta lets 14-year-olds drive

Al­berta is the only prov­ince in Can­ada that al­lows 14-year-olds to drive.

Back in 1992, 26,000 Al­ber­tans ages 14 and 15 had a Class 7 li­cence al­lowing them to get be­hind the wheel of a car as long as they were ac­com­pan­ied by a per­son aged 18 or older with a driv­er’s li­cence.

Shel­ley Mil­ler, a law­yer with the gov­ern­ment-ap­point­ed Auto­mobile In­sur­ance Board, said she would like to see Al­berta’s driv­ing age in­creased.

Statistics show mo­tor vehicle ac­ci­dents are the lead­ing cause of death in Can­ada for males be­tween 15 and 24. Giv­ing 14-year-olds the right to drive is equiva­lent to put­ting weapons in their hands, she argued.

Her com­ments fol­lowed a court case where a judge slapped a 15-year-old with a 30-month jail term after hear­ing a hor­rif­ic sto­ry of how the teen had driv­en through resi­den­tial streets one night at speeds of up to 120 km-h, some­times driv­ing on the wrong side of the road.

He had ap­peared in court count­less times be­fore for driv­ing like a ma­niac. Each time he was slapped on the wrist after prom­is­ing to mend his ways.

In most prov­inces he wouldn’t get near a car until his 16th birth­day.

In 1989, Al­berta had the se­cond highest prov­in­cial fatal­ity rate in Can­ada.

For every 1,000 licensed male driv­ers in­volved in cas­ual­ty col­li­sions, 19 per cent or al­most one in every five were boys under 16. That fig­ure in­creased to 20.3 per cent in 1990.

No one con­tacted by the Journal’s at the time spoke posi­tive­ly about Al­berta al­lows 14-year-olds to drive. Most be­lieved the move dated to the days when farm fam­ilies needed their kids to be able to drive in or­der to get work done around the farm.

Mil­ler said she’d ex­pect strong re­sist­ance from rural Al­berta to rais­ing the driv­ing age, but said it might be pos­sible to have some sort of “gradu­at­ed� licens­ing pro­gram.

The Al­berta gov­ern­ment intro­duced a gradu­at­ed driv­er licens­ing pro­gram, with three stages, in 2003.

Such pro­grams have been proven ef­fect­ive world­wide — deaths and in­jur­ies due to mo­tor vehicle in­ci­dents are con­sist­ent­ly re­duced wher­ev­er these pro­grams exist. How­ever, the big­gest re­duc­tions in road cas­ual­ties tend to be found in places with tougher gradu­at­ed licens­ing sys­tems than Al­berta’s.

As of March 31, 2014, there were 8,767 Class 7 drivers.

czdeb@edmontonjournal.com

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