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B.C. graduated licensing program inconvenient, say teen drivers

02/12/2015 06:16 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT
Despite some close calls, some B.C. teens aren't thrilled about graduated licensing for drivers' permits. 

The B.C. Coroners Service recently released a report that says vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for teens between the ages of 15 and 18.

Deaths of young drivers have decreased since the Graduated Licensing Program was introduced in 1998, but the panel asked ICBC to see if there is room for improvement. 

'My life was just changed drastically'

John Westhaver, a crash survivor and speaker, was 18 and spending a typical Friday night with his friends when his life changed forever.

He was drinking in a car with three friends but thought he was safe because the driver was sober.

The car crashed and caught fire. He emerged, the only survivor, with third-degree burns to 75 per cent to his body.

"That day I lost my best friend and two of my other friends," said Westhaver. "My life was just changed drastically."

Westhaver was in a medically-induced coma for several months to help him survive.

Now 39, he shares his story with high school students through the ICBC Road Safety Speaker program.

"The reason why I do this is so nobody has to go what I went through," said Westhaver.

He tells teenagers to not just make safer choices behind the wheel, but to contribute to overall safety in the vehicle.

"They really get the importance of the message," said Westhaver.

On mobile? Watch a video of John Westhaver's advice for teen drivers

'It just kind of happened really fast'

Scott Barker, a Grade 12 student at Terry Fox Secondary in Coquitlam, B.C., also experienced a dramatic car accident.

"It just kind of happened really fast," said Barker. "We turned around and then hit a curb and flipped over."

Barker wasn't driving when the crash happened.

The car had just had a new engine installed.

"It was kind of cool to see how fast it could go, so we weren't really thinking about the safe side of things," said Barker.

Luckily, no one was injured.

Despite having experience a significant car crash, Barker thinks the graduated licensing system in B.C. is too onerous.

"I think the two years of having your novice is a bit much because you've already had your L for a year," he said.

Barker says he enjoys the freedom of not having to depend on friends and family for rides.

'We could have gotten t-boned if she would have kept going'

Brooke Clements, also a Grade 12 student at Terry Fox Secondary, has never had a serious car accident, but has had a few close calls.

"I've had a friend drive and she was going straight into traffic and she just wasn't paying attention," said Clements. "Basically we could have gotten t-boned if she would have kept going."

She also drove into a pole once when she was driving.

"I told my parents right away, and I apologized and since then I've been extra cautious," she said.

Clements also thinks that B.C.'s graduated licensing system is too demanding.

"I think the one passenger rule is kind of hard," she said. "Just going with one friend somewhere, that's not always what's going to happen."

She says she relies on being able to drive to get around from school, to work and to after-school sports.

To listen to the full inteview with Brooke Clements and Scott Barker, click on the audio labelled: Teen drivers talk about safety on the road.

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