Are Learner Drivers treated unfairly on our roadways?

Sinead tells of her negative experience as a learner driver

Written by Sinéad Hunt


I’m 17 and I am learning to drive. In itself learning to drive a car is easy, but learning to drive in manner that accommodates other peoples mistakes and misjudgements is hard, really, really hard.

Getting in a car for the first time was fun, if nothing else, I felt perfectly fine driving along the country roads near my home town. Several lessons later my mum went and insured me on her car (at an astronomical price, but that is for another day) the L plates went on and what happened next was incredibly strange.

I am a learner driver, I will make mistakes, stall the car, cause untold damage to the gear box. In short I am sorry, please be patient with me, and if I'm going too slow just overtake when its safe, thank you. You would think that on the roads drivers could tell the difference between someone who has been driving for twenty hours and someone who has been for twenty years. Truth is a whole lot of people simply can't. In the month that the L plates have been stuck in the corner of the windshield, front and back my mother has received a whole lot of extra abuse from other drivers on the roads.

Countless drivers have honked impatiently and unnecessarily even when the lights were red. If the lights turned orange and she slowed down they would honk. If she didn't drive over the speed limit they would honk. If she did basically anything they would treat her like she was some silly incompetent learner that had no clue what she was doing.

The way other road user treat drivers that they simply THINK are learners is appalling. To note my mother is NOT a learner, she is NOT a bad driver, though certainly she is not a perfect one, she has been driving for over twenty years. Before the L plates went up the occasional car would cut her off  but after that were put up it just seemed to get crazy.

Drivers out there on the roads don't seem to be as observant as you might think and some of them have a temper that shortens when they see that big red L. Now whenever I'm in the car, and my mother is the one driving, it seems that the car is berated by beeping ill tempered drivers behind. On two separate, recent and equally shocking occasions while driving the car some short tempered wisecrack couldn't handle the terrible driving job this "learner" was doing. They followed the car driven by my mother until they found an opening to stop their vehicle next to ours. They rolled down their window and screamed the most absurd and frankly crude slurs at us.

One even went as far as to throw something at the car. It is appalling that people as clearly unhinged as these two are  allowed out on the roads. Much more the thought that if I had been the one driving how terrifying and quite frankly scarring that would have been.

What is it about this big red L on the car that causes such impatience and disgust in other road users? Surely they all had to learn once too? As a learner it is not keeping control of the car that I have to worry about, that part is easy, but what I do have to worry about is the assumptions other drivers do and will make of me. That because of those assumptions they will take more risks to overtake me or honk loudly when I stall the car and don't immediately get it moving again. I’d be interested to know if any of the rest of you have had similar experiences while driving with L plates.

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