If We’ve Got to Have Driver’s Licenses . . .

  • February 12, 2024

It’s an affront to the right to travel freely to have to get the state’s permission to be allowed to do it – which is what having to obtain a driver’s license is nominally all about. You may not “drive” – that is, operate a motor vehicle – on the government’s roads (to call them “public” is etymologically dishonest because the “public” does not control the roads; the government does – and whoever controls something owns that thing) without the government’s permission.

It has little, if anything, to do with whether you can drive. That is, whether you can competently operate a motor vehicle. What we commonly refer to as a driver’s license is – effectively – a government-issued identity card. The government hardly bothers to hide the fact anymore. Case in point: Whether you can competently operate a motor vehicle is an irrelevance as regards your ability to occupy a seat as a passenger in a commercial airplane. Yet, try to board a commercial flight without your government ID – whoops, “driver’s” license. Or open a bank account.

Or buy cough syrup at the CVS.

The government even calls it an ID now – as in a REAL one. Facial-scan/biometric identifiers; a bar code containing everything about you. Soon you won’t be allowed to walk into government-owned buildings  without one.

The “driving” part is vestigial, a kind of paperwork appendix.

In European countries like Germany the driving part is still a big part of the license, which is for that reason something much more than an ID. Obtaining one requires extensive driver training meant to impart the skills one must learn to be capable of safely driving a motor vehicle on German highways – their Autobahns – where people are expected to have the skills to safely drive on highways that do not have speed limits. Or – rather – where the speed limit is however fast the driver, in his judgment, thinks it is safe for him to drive.

And this is legal.

Right about now the Safety Cultists reading this are clutching their Rosary beads.

That’s because they consider “speed” – a term lacking precision but which roughly translates as any faster than they are comfortable allowing anyone else to drive – to be “unsafe.”

That “speed kills” – their own phrasing.

Except it doesn’t in Germany. Perhaps because a driver’s license over there has something to do with demonstrated competence behind the wheel. More finely, people must demonstrate such competence before they are granted permission to drive on German roads, including the Autobahn. They must show that they know the importance of situational awareness  – in particular, being aware of what might be coming up fast, behind them. They are trained – and expected to – keep right, except to pass.

And they do.

This lane discipline allows for safe high-speed driving on German Autobahns, which have a lower accident fatality rate than American highways – where it is unlawful “speeding” in most states to drive faster than 70-75 MPH and “reckless driving” everywhere to exceed 100 MPH.

In Germany, it is common for drivers to exceed 100 MPH and maintain that speed. And it is safe, because German drivers take driving seriously. Are required to take it seriously. A driver who does not maintain situational awareness, who fails to yield to faster moving traffic, is considered the driver at fault if there is an accident.

It is not just considered obnoxious to sit in the left (passing) lane. It is regarded as unsafe. It will get such a driver pulled over, because his driving constitutes a danger to himself and others. He risks causing a catastrophic accident if he fails to get out of the way of a car closing on him from behind at 100-plus MPH whose driver assumes the car ahead is driven by a competent driver who will see him coming and get out of the way in time.

Of course, The Safety Cultists will screech that it is the “speeding” driver who is the cause of such an accident, if it occurs. He ought to have slowed down! Or – rather – not have been driving so fast that he didn’t have enough time to slow down for the driver ahead who failed to yield.

This, in a nutshell, is the ideology of dumbing down driving.

It is what new drivers in this country are taught when they aren’t taught how to drive, much less expected to demonstrate that they’ve learned how. What they are taught is that “speeding” – i.e., driving any faster than the Safety Cultists are comfortable allowing anyone else to drive – is synonymous with “unsafe” driving. They are not taught to practice lane discipline. They are encouraged to drive as part of a herd rather than judgment-exercising individuals with the competence to do just that.

And the result is guess what? More dangerous roads – as the Safety Cultists style it. American highways are more dangerous – statistically – than German Autobahns.

In fact, it’s more dangerous drivers, the result of not expecting much of them, as drivers.

It’s arguably stupendously, flippantly reckless the way the government allows almost literally anyone who has met the age requirement and answered a minimum number of questions on a multiple choice test a license to drive. If pilot’s licenses were issued on a similarly flippant basis, it wouldn’t be safe to walk outside – because of the high chance a plane might crash right on top of your head.

But then, getting a private or commercial pilot’s license entails extensive training and (ultimately) having to prove you are competent to fly an airplane. If you can’t do that, then you don’t get the pilot’s license.

But that’s because it’s not an ID pretending to be about something else.

. . .

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