Bob from Aurora writes, “What's driving you crazy? Two part question: 1. What "protections" do drivers have when they have a "new driver" or "student driver" stickers on their vehicles? In other words, should other drivers treat them differently and, if so, how? 2. If a person is not a new or student driver, can they get in any sort of trouble for having these stickers on their vehicles? The reason for asking is that I seem to see more of these on the roads and, looking at the folks behind the wheels, they look as if they've been driving for some time now.”
Joe Moylan with the Aurora Police Department sums it up this way: “The spirit of attaching a ‘student driver’ sticker to your car is in hopes other drivers will give a new driver some grace while they learn how to navigate the roads. There are no protections guaranteed to the driver for posting a sticker, nor are there any consequences.”
But remember Bob, not every student driver is just learning or is a teenager. While most of the adults driving a car with a student driver sticker attached are well-seasoned drivers, some might not be. I used to work with a man who lost his license for many years after receiving a DUI. He chose not to drive for a while and went through drivers ed courses to help familiarize himself with getting behind the wheel again and helping with lowering his insurance rates.
“When those magnetic stickers first came out, it was new and people were probably more cautious”, says Jake Dinwiddie, DriveSafe Driving School Senior Lead Instructor. “But now that those stickers are so much more common, they have very little impact.”
I’ve always thought good drivers are the ones nobody notices on the road,” said Chad Shepperd DriveSafe Training Instructor. “These stickers only draw more attention to the car/driver and thus reduces any perceived protection.”
“I don’t believe that a student driver, sticker or not, is entitled to any special protections,” says personal injury attorney David McDivitt.
David tells me that the rules of the road apply equally to both new and experienced drivers no matter what kind of sticker or warning you have on your car.
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“If someone (a student driver) is driving in an unsafe manner, which might include driving too slowly, they might be subject to a ticket for creating an unsafe condition even in the absence of a collision. Forget slow speed for a moment - even if the student driver was full-on stopped in the middle of the road and someone rear ends them, the person who rear ended them will be cited and the student driver would have a viable civil claim against the other person as well.”
Dinwiddie told me most teens he takes out on the road don’t want any added attention to their driving as they are already overly self-conscious creatures who think everyone is already judging them. He added that if drivers just paid attention, drive safely and followed traffic laws, they wouldn’t need to drive any differently around student drivers.
“That being said, drivers should be more patient, allow extra room, and take more caution when sharing the road with student drivers, ones with stickers and ones in driver’s ed cars like ours. Having spent countless hours in a well-marked student driver car, I can say that many people are friendlier in their behavior, but I speculate it’s more for self-preservation than actual courtesy. However, I’ve seen people actually harass and drive more aggressively around our cars once they notice it’s a novice driver – often trying to startle them with sudden braking, honking, swerving, etc.”
Interestingly, there are some countries like the UK, Canada, Japan and Australia that require young drivers who are just learning to drive to have either a special license plate or a special sticker on their vehicle. In Australia, drivers with a provisional or probationary license have a special P license plate noting the probationary status. Their second year of probationary driving still requires the P plate but in a different color. The probationary status means there are more restrictions on their driving behavior like speed, power of the car’s engine, blood alcohol limits compared to fully licensed driver. According to GoAustralia, typically, a single serious traffic offense is sufficient for a provisional driver to receive a suspended license.
In Japan, they have a sticker called the “shoshinsha mark.” According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, the sticker is a green and yellow V-shaped symbol that new drivers must display one the front and back of their vehicle for one year after they obtain a standard driver's license.
In British Columbia, Canada they have a graduated licensing program where new drivers have to display an “L” sticker for the first year and then an “N” sticker for 2 years before they can take another driving test which they have to pass to earn their unrestricted license.
Dinwiddie doesn’t advocate for these kinds of plates or stickers, telling me, “My feeling is that the less noticeable you are on the road, the better.”
Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook,Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Spotify or Podbean.