I’m going to go out on a limb with this mini-post. Maybe I’m the only one who has noticed this, but in my opinion, we sure seem to see a lot more of this feature these days.
I’m referring to the decals above the rear bumper on this car. Which one am I talking about? If it isn’t obvious already from the title of this article…
I can’t believe I’m the only one who has spotted the proliferation of these stickers in recent years. What used to be a rare occurrence—the sighting of a student driver—now seems to be something one can expect to see with every car trip.
Is it just me? Apparently I’m not the only one who caught this. A curious reader of the Mercury News spotted this as well. The answer from the newspaper’s transportation unit: the reason for all these student driver stickers is “concerned parents who want other drivers to cut their teens some slack when behind the wheel and be prepared for the unexpected.” The respondent also notes such signs are “a good seller”—that seems to be true—and the statistics, as noted by the Mercury News, support the need for extra caution around student drivers. The article lists all the reckless driving stats for which teen drivers are infamous: speeding, texting while driving, running red lights, not wearing seatbelts.
No doubt this is a problem; teens have always been notoriously careless behind the wheel and are responsible for a disproportionate percentage of serious accidents. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for teens. But if the parents are buying these stickers to “cut their teens some slack”, couldn’t it just give the teens themselves more of an excuse to be irresponsible? And why so many stickers these days? Sure, the fact they’re easily available suggests numerous companies are responding to a surge in demand. But why the surge in demand, since the percentage of teens pursuing drivers licenses has been steadily decreasing? More and more of them are deferring both the license and drivers ed, yet the stickers are more common now than ever. I remember in previous decades, when the decals would be huge—half the width of the car—easily visible on all four sides, and potentially even accompanied by a small blinking amber light. As the student driver population diminishes, the warning stickers become more prevalent yet also more half-hearted.
Color me cynical, but I don’t just think the student driver signs are simply parents encouraging motorists to cut their kids some slack. I think it’s motorists—many of them who have been driving for years—who are hoping it will allow law enforcement to cut them some slack, and possibly to overlook some careless maneuvering or even outright moving violations. I’ve written in the past about creative measures for encouraging driver safety; why shouldn’t drivers be equally creative in evading these regs? As long as the law enforcement doesn’t actually pull the drivers over to learn, upon checking their license, that the “student driver” sticker is at least insincere (if not outright fraudulent)…the driver is more likely to get away with minor infractions. After all, it’s a student driver. We should cut them all some slack.
Maybe I’m assuming the worst, but I also base my judgment on human nature. Many years ago, the high-altitude capital of Mexico recognized the severity of smog from idling vehicles in traffic, so city leaders imposed restrictions to try to reduce the number of cars on the road. They named the policy Hoy No Circula (literally “Today it does not circulate”), and it essentially uses a numeric code to restrict commuting days, combined with the associated vehicle’s results from an emissions test. While the policy is more complicated than I am detailing, it largely equates to select digits on the license plates: e.g., numbers 5-6 can’t driveon Mondays; numbers 7-8 are no circula on Tuesdays; and so forth. The policy loosely seemed to work at first, since the enforcement is strong. But it has inconvenienced suburban commuters, many of whom need to take their cars to work each day and either distrust or simply dislike Mexico City’s generally widely available mass transit system. Affluent motorists have found a way to circumvent the law by either renting a taxi or buying a second car for the off day. An attempt to expand the policy to Saturdays hasn’t improved emissions levels at all.
The second law of unintended consequences related to traffic management involves the proliferation of HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes, throughout large metros like Mexico City or Washington DC (the suburbs of which form the source my photos featured here). To mitigate traffic bottlenecking during rush hour, city transportation planners/engineers have built HOV lanes, favoring drivers who had at least two people in their car by according them a more exclusive “fast lane”. Again, motorists who can’t find a commuting buddy to give them legal access to HOVs have found a creative solution: buy a life-size blow-up doll or mannequin to put in the passenger seat and hope most of law enforcement doesn’t notice. Supposedly it hasn’t worked. But that, of course, only accounts for the people who got caught. How many dozens or hundreds have successfully deployed this ruse to skirt a law because their dummy in the passenger seat looked real? If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one there to hear it…
I am increasingly convinced that the student driver decals operate under the same principle, allowing individuals of any age to play fast and loose with certain laws and claim driver inexperience if they get pulled over for doing so. I could of course be wrong, but a quick look at some of this driver’s other decals doesn’t inspire any confidence:
Is this particular Virginia driver showing how thankful he/she for having “gotten away” from New York state, or is this a more generic reference to a getaway car? Truth be told, I’m not begrudging this person—or any person—his/her edgy and subversive bumper stickers. Because if I were a big crank, I’d have turned up my nose to chestnuts like this one.
Not the same person as our student driver. But it might as well be. People who fall for these sort of tricks are the real llosers.