Leighton Zink: A Child’s Guide to Driving

Introduction:

These last few months I’ve turned my attention towards the topic of driving. And perhaps more importantly, I have turned my attention towards making sure everyone knows it.

Allow me to explain. Regardless of how well it may actually be going, advertising my adventures as a young driver is useful for a number of reasons.

Here are a few facts: 1. Driving is cool. This is simple mathematics. People who would tell you otherwise have clearly never seen Ryan Gosling’s performance in Drive. 2. Being in the process of acquiring a licence makes asking for a lift that much less shameful. “Come on Mom, at least I’m trying.” And 3. People love having something to complain about.

See, as it turns out, earning a driver’s licence in Ontario is not particularly easy. At least they sure aren’t giving them away.

I suppose it isn’t so much that the process is particularly complex, as it is painfully lengthy. From flag to finish line, you’re looking at two drawn-out years of testing, practice and twiddling your thumbs, that ends not a great deal farther than where you began. Certainly the idea of becoming a licenced driver gives you something to strive for, but somewhere along the line, climbing behind the wheel loses just a little bit of its lustre.

As for me? Well, it’s been a good year and then some since I could have hit the road alone. I try not to sweat it too much, but it’s not something the world is keen to let me forget—and rightly so.

In all honesty, the process becomes a lot less about natural talent as it does your ability to not be quite so lazy. Don’t get me wrong, I had certainly thought about driving, but 12 months goes by mighty fast when you’re trying to doze your way through fourth year on a half-nights sleep.

Nowadays, I’m back on the trail. With 30-odd hours of driver’s training behind me and a road test booked for the beginning of December, I figure it’s about time I made something useful of the experience. There has got to be a helpful anecdote somewhere around here. There just has to be. So consider this a guide of sorts. A very brief, very un-scientific guide.

 

G-1 Testing:

For young Ontarians, the road to the other actual road begins with a visit to your nearest ServiceOntario centre. Paperwork aside, the stay consists of a simple vision assessment followed by a brief written test on the topic of traffic signs, general road safety and more or less common sense.

I am still unsure as to whether or not I was accidentally given a colouring book instead of my test sheet. I filled in some blanks, circled a few letters and always made sure to colour inside the lines. Needless to say, I passed with flying colours.

Well perhaps I’m misremembering that colouring bit, but if you read through the driver’s manual, you’ll do just fine. My only piece of advice here is to pay close attention to the legal intricacies of each division of licence—legal blood-alcohol limits, passenger restrictions, that sort of thing. This type of question plays a surprisingly prominent role in all G-1 examinations and is not necessarily intuitive to the driving process.

For those automotive experts who manage to succeed, it’s now time to get out there and practice your driving.

 

Limbo:

I don’t know about anyone else, but there was just something about climbing behind the wheel that I had a hard time understanding from a few multiple choice questions. If anything, the shift from paper to pavement felt distinctly… abrupt. But I guess that’s what empty parking lots are for.

Take your time. You’ve got at least eight months to wait, so get cozy and grab a snack. Use this transition period to practice turning, stopping, parking, holding pace from the curb and checking your rear-view mirrors. When you’re feeling ready to move up in the world, drive around your neighbourhood.

Start small. Make sure you can handle lane spacing and stop signs before trying to tear up a country road at 80 kmph. You’ll have your entire life to drive fast and make questionable decisions. If there was ever a time to be patient, your first trip in the family mini-van certainly seems like a promising candidate.

 

Driver’s Training:

You also now have the option to sign up for a certified driver’s training course at your leisure. As to whether that be before or after you try driving for yourself, is a decision to be made with your family. Some people prefer a context to what goes on in class, while others would rather wait and first grow comfortable with the rules of the road. There are a number of companies that offer this service throughout most cities in the province, each with their own rates and schedules. It is on you to work out a time and price point that fits.

Now perhaps you are thinking, “But, but, but, Leighton! Driver’s training isn’t mandatory!” For those wary of attending anything that doesn’t involve a truancy officer, allow me to get a few things out of the way. Yes, I am aware that driver’s training is optional. Yes, I do suppose no one is forcing you to attend. That said, if you’re a fan of such classics as “money,” “time” or “safety,” you are going to want to take the course.

Those that choose to enroll enjoy the benefits of a four month reduced G-1 sentence, a hands-on understanding of the upcoming road test and significant discounts to their driving insurance premiums. I suppose I really can’t make a guarantee on that last one, since last I checked, I don’t provide your insurance, but I feel confident with my assertion all the same.

Late this summer I myself spent the 20 hours to run through the basics of road etiquette in Ontario. The course, split over four afternoons, was, to no one’s surprise, not particularly exciting. Nor was it meant to be—we were there to learn. So I paid attention, took notes and by the end of the four days could probably even tell you a thing or two about driving in our province. Certainly there were dull moments—boring even—but I knew that if I couldn’t handle 20 hours of keeping my mouth shut and ears open, my prospects for university were not looking good.

I then had eight weeks to book my first in-car appointment. Naturally, I took seven. For the next month and a bit, I would spend two hours a week driving around the city, wrestling my instructor’s car into the center of the lane and terrifying the suburbs with my questionable parking. I booked each appointment individually, some during school hours and others after.

Though at first my instructor’s foot never strayed far from his training brake, by the fifth week, we were cruising down the highway talking as much about politics as parking. I was taken through the paces. Quiet trips through the suburbs lead to crowded city streets and bustling highways. As our time wound its way to an end, the focus of the course turned to my upcoming road test. What does a successful parallel park look like? Where were marks commonly lost during the course of a three point turn? If I had ever felt nervous about what was expected of me as a driver, this last chapter of driver’s training would help put all that to rest.

 

G-2 Testing:

Now undoubtedly, there are going to be some of you who won’t take my advice. Hey, I’m not sweating it. Not everyone is going to choose driver’s training and that’s okay.

Regardless of your decision, you are now free to roll your way towards a G-2 test following a period of only 12 months. Although this is where my knowledge of the process begins to fray, I can tell you that scheduling this one won’t be quite the walk in the park that you’re used to.

For myself, the next available time slot sits more than a good month away. I’d like to say that it has to do with a lack of certified driving examiners, but it could also simply be the universe punishing me for not booking well in advance. That’s what I get for apathy, I suppose.

 

Conclusion:

And that’s it. Unfortunately from this point on, you and I both are left only to our own guidance—a concerning thought if your guidance is as childish as mine. As for the G-2? Well, I’ll have to get back to you on that one in December. In fact, I think that it’s safe to say that you won’t be hearing the end of it. Who knows? Maybe one day soon I’ll even be able to go on a nice date without my mom chaperoning from the passenger’s seat.