Licence to thrill

Susan Flanagan
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It’s a moment every parent dreams of — turning chauffeur duty over to someone else

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I am a two-time lottery winner. The first time it happened in April 2010, I was at home when the phone rang. “I didn’t get it,” said my first child, sounding dejected.

My heart went out to him.

“It’s OK,” I said, “You’ll get it next time.”

“Ha! I’m joking,” he said, his voice perked up. “Can you come get me in Mount Pearl and pay for my licence?”

Wahoo! My first lotto win. We had an extra driver in the house. What could be better than that?

My son could take not only himself to hockey, but also his brother, who was on the same team. Sometimes he could even take his sister when she played on the second sheet of ice at Twin Rinks at the same time. This, believe it or not, happened often. That left my husband and I with only one child to bring to and from hockey after years of virtually living at the rinks. The gods were shining on us.

It was time to celebrate. After work we met my husband at a family restaurant. I drank an alcoholic beverage and No. 1 chauffeured his tipsy mother home. Life was good.

Recently I had a chance to win my second licence lottery.

I had all but one winning number. It was up to No. 2 to find the last number. It all depended on how he fared in his driver’s test. At least this time around we knew the drill.

I went to the bank ahead of time and paid $50 to get a stamp on the licence form provided by my son’s driving instructor. Another driving instructor, having reserved my son’s last lesson for the hour immediately before the test, picked up No 2. at school (yes, he had to miss class to try for his licence) and primed him for the big exam.

Once No. 2 was passed over to the evaluator, he illustrated his remarkable parking skills in the Motor Vehicle Registration fenced compound. It was only after that the evaluator deemed him ready to safely navigate the roads of Mount Pearl. Please note that for every hour your child is in the car with a driving instructor, you are supposed to have him drive another 10 hours with you.

When No. 2 called to say he had passed the test, I did my victory dance on the front lawn, rake in hand, stunned surprise baby looking on at his possessed mother. I looked like Elf Will Ferrell when he learns he’s about to meet Santa.

While I made my way out the crosstown arterial, No. 2 got a number and waited in the main area of Motor Vehicle Registration to pay $100 and get the actual piece of plastic.

By the time I pulled in with surprise baby, he was already outside waiting, shiny new licence burning a hole in his plaid jacket pocket.

Then it was straight to insurance where I signed off on another $780 per year for the privilege of having our second son drive himself to hockey. In order to get a 10 per cent discount offered to graduates of a driver’s training program, you must bring the driver’s training certificate with you when you get the insurance. This will be given to your child after his final lesson (in No. 2’s case this had been less than an hour before so luckily there was little chance of losing the certificate in the paper piles on a desk at home).

Then away he went.

Rules of the road

If you happen to win the lottery like us, your child will be allowed to drive in the vehicle in which he is insured except between midnight and 5 a.m., during which time he will turn into a pumpkin if he gets behind the wheel. If he needs to drive during those hours because he works night shifts, he must get a letter from his employer stating as much and carry it in the glove box in case he gets pulled over. Otherwise it may mean bye-bye licence.

How do things work in this province? Once your darling child turns 16, he can write a permit test. On the Avalon this is done in Mount Pearl at the Motor Vehicle Registration Building. You go in the door on the side facing Dominion. At this point there is no road test and there is no cost to write the permit test.

If your darling doesn’t get it on first try, he can come back as often as he wishes. There are online sample tests worth doing to prepare. While he is in writing the test (he needs to get fewer than four answers wrong to be successful), you can scoot to the front door and grab a number. This will speed things up if he is successful. Don’t tell him, however, as it may jinx his chances.

If he passes, you go around, they snap the pic, you open your wallet and your darling can then drive with a driver who has had a valid licence for five years.

If your darling successfully completes driver’s training, he can go for the licence test eight months after he gets his certificate or up to four months before his 17th birthday.

Then comes the expensive part — insurance. The 10 per cent rebate for a completed driver’s training program is a small bonus considering young drivers are pricey to insure.

I used to think it was only boys between the ages of 16 and 25 who had to pay sky-high insurance rates, but girls, in this province anyway, have been forking over the same since Aug. 1, 2005.

Here’s what the act says: “The Automobile Insurance Prohibited Underwriting Regulations have been amended to prohibit the use of age, gender and martial (sic) status as elements in an insurer’s risk classification system …”

Another insurance tidbit: if there are two parents and two cars, your child is classed as an occasional driver and the rates are reasonable. But if you have a third vehicle that’s insured, even if it’s a Porsche kept under a tarp for eight months of the year, that means your licensed child is automatically considered a primary driver and you pay more.

Also, if your child moves away to go to university, remember that before he returns to this province, he needs a letter from his mainland insurance company that shows his sparkling record so his rates can continue to decline year after year. Believe it or not, rates do improve after 10 accident-free driving years and are at their best after 15 years of accident-free driving.

My boys are still a long way off that, but hopefully by then they’ll be paying their own insurance and driving their own vehicle.

For now, they drive our uncool family vans, complete with car seats.

The first time we won the licence lottery, my husband decided to trade in his aging BMW. He asked the eldest whether he should buy a second-hand sporty car for them to share.

Conor was ecstatic. Well, ecstatic for a 17-year-old. He said: “Sure.”

So Chris went out and bought — are you ready? — a red van almost identical to the one which already sat in our driveway.

Surprise baby thought we had to colour co-ordinate our vehicles with our fresh red clapboard.

“It’ll fit all the hockey bags,” Chris proclaimed.

So now that we’re two-time licence lottery winners, my husband is talking about trading in the red van.

I’ll get back to you on what “sporty” car he brings home next.

Susan Flanagan is a mother of five and a licenced driver who learned to drive a standard in Japan, shifting with her left hand. But that’s another column. For more information, visit the province’s website on Insurance Reform Measures:

Organizations: Automobile Insurance Prohibited Underwriting Regulations, Porsche, BMW

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Japan

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Recent comments

  • dawn
    November 29, 2011 - 16:21

    It is my husband and "me" NOT my husband and I as stated in the article. "That left my husband and I with only one child to bring to and from hockey after years of virtually living at the rinks." You take away the noun (husband) and use the pronoun that makes wouldn't say that left I with only one child. Sorry to be picky but it is really my pet peeve. :-)