As I fine-tune and finish up a much longer blog post, I wanted to fill this dry spell with some amusing content that serves as a follow-up to an unexpectedly popular blog post from about a year ago. I noted last spring the strange, recent proliferation of bumper stickers (magnets in actuality) alerting passers-by of a “STUDENT DRIVER” or rookie driver, often accompanied with the admonition “PLEASE BE PATIENT” or some similar plea toward leniency. In 2022, these bumper stickers aren’t stickers at all; adhesion hurts a vehicle’s paint. They also aren’t the diamond shaped signs appended to back windshields through suction, like the “BABY ON BOARD” ubiquitous in yesteryear. These yellow “STUDENT DRIVER” warnings are magnets, and they’re everywhere. Anyone can pick one up for just a few bucks on Amazon. It’s remarkable that we start encountering these warnings at a time when fewer people than ever before are taking driver’s education classes, not only because the number of people in that age cohort (typically 15 to 19) is lower than in the past, but because fewer teenagers and young adults are seeking to obtain a drivers license.
So why all the stickers? Last year I speculated that many of these stickers are bogus—that is, that the primary driver isn’t a student after all, but merely someone who hopes to get let off the hook in the event of an infraction. I open up a can of worms: quite a few other people responded to my article and agreed with me. They noted (and I can concur) that, far too often, the person behind the wheel is unequivocally middle aged. While it’s of course still possible that the middle aged person is a new driver—or that he/she is the parent of a teenaged student driver—these odds aren’t entirely likely, and it still means that the caveat that this motorist is brandishing is, at the moment, largely illegitimate. After all, they’re magnets; not stickers; it’s easy to peel off and slap back on whenever the “STUDENT DRIVER” label is applicable. Thanks to my article from last year, I am increasingly confident that these signs frequently serve more as an attempt to dodge law enforcement by using careless and sloppy driving as an excuse. Don’t tase me bro; I’m a rookie driver.
One year later, and the “STUDENT DRIVER” tags are more prevalent than ever. And more ludicrous in their application. Like in Alexandria, Virginia:
There’s that confounded sticker again. But this time, the application seems even more disingenuous. Need a closer look to see what I’m talking about?
On the roof of the car, witness the indication of a commercial vehicle: the “Uber” and “Lyft” logos, perched in place of where a “TAXI” indicator might have been if this were still 2004. It’s not even a question of whether or not we’re supposed to believe that a certified representative of the two biggest mobility-service apps is somehow still a “STUDENT DRIVER”. Of course not. The question is: why would a person working for Uber and Lyft want to keep such a label on his or her car? Even if this driver-by-hire has a child or another household member who is in fact a student driver, why not remove the magnet the rest of the time? Does it inspire confidence to see “STUDENT DRIVER” and “Lyft” on the same vehicle? Does Uber know that one of its drivers continues to tote around a warning sign that suggests the driver is inexperienced?
The presence of the “STUDENT DRIVER” magnet makes it easier to question the legitimacy of the Uber and Lyft signs perched on the car’s roof. Perhaps the whole thing is a ruse that bestows certain driving privileges onto the wearer? After all, any city-dweller can attest to the way motorists seem able to idle their vehicles in the middle of a street, or even to double park, all while claiming they’re with Uber and waiting to pick up a passenger. ,I almost question whether this Alexandria motorist, stopped in front of me in these photos might be both an illegitimate student and a bogus Uber/Lift driver. After all, why would both competing companies want their logos perched on an old Taxi indicator? Is that even the authorized spot to place an Uber/Lyft logo? Most Uber/Lyft drivers in the US use the decal on the windshields or on a side door (passenger or driver, front or back). Some use glowing lights. But none that I’ve seen in this country use the “hat” we expect to see on conventional taxis. Maybe this Uber/Lyft driver bought that taxi hat on Amazon as well.
I think this is a predicament, about how honestly motorists present themselves, for which we are currently only witnessing the iceberg’s tip. Sure hope I’m wrong.