Young drivers are killing themselves. For this reason, the community is calling on governments to increase the age at which drivers get behind the wheel. Contrary to this, Jonar Nader says that driving must be demystified. Driving must no longer be associated with ‘coming of age’. Jonar suggests that drivers should start younger. Jonar speaks with Walkley-Award winning journalist Ghassan Nakhoul. This broadcast is spoken in Arabic.
Below is an English transcript of the Arabic interview.
Radio Program ‘The Youth & The Future’
An interview with Jonar Nader, exploring why the age for driving ought to be lowered.
New drivers and car accidents, why do young people die on the roads? And where are politicians from the real solution? Is the solution really in raising up the legal driving age? And what about creating special driving schools that would allow future drivers to experience crashes, and understand car physics?
Almost no week passes without news about a horrific car accident that has killed young men or young women, and with this disturbing curve of events, the voices requesting that young men and women are not to be allowed to drive before they reach a certain age, are getting louder.
This subject is the focus of the following conversation with the author ‘Jonar Nader’ who continuously holds seminars with the youth, wither to train them about the art of driving, or to talk to them about life in general.
Host: Jonar, first what do you think about suggestions asking to rise the legal driving age in order to reduce car accidents?
Jonar Nader: I always get worried when the society or the government changes a law because the minority cannot be control themselves. For example, we know that at shopping malls, a 1000 people can go in to a supermarket, but only 2 of them would steal, so the management then places cameras to monitor the 1000 people, when the actual problem is only with the 2 who steals. Or when someone at work smokes in the office, and instead of talking to that person, punish him, help him or ask him not to smoke in the office, they place a sign so big that 5000 people can read, although they are not concerned with it. What I mean is that we always tend to punish the majority when the problem is only with a minority.
It is the same when we ask to rise up the legal driving age, so that instead of being at the age of 16 or 17, it is at the age of 20. What did we really achieve here? This is really inconvenience, we always talk on the radio about how the youth have good management skills, awareness, and how smart they are, but when we do something like that, it is like we are telling them that they don’t understand, that they can’t handle things, that we cannot trust their abilities, that they don’t have enough awareness, that they don’t have enough coordination skills, and that we will wait until they are 21 to have all that.
Host: But Jonar, the problem is that we have people dying, and the affected are not the youth alone, but the entire society.
Jonar Nader: That is true, so, we have to do the right thing, and not a political thing, because it is easy to shift, and the issue is not a political stand. I agree with you, and I know that there are people getting hurt, and that is why we have to do the appropriate thing. But to tell the young man that he have to wait until he is 21 or 25 to drive, do you think this will make a difference? I don’t think so, I think we have to make the change in the core, and in the roots.
Host: You have worked a lot with the youth, so what do you think is the reason behind this matter? Is it the fact that the young man or the young woman is just in their prime enthusiasm? Or is there something else the society does not know about?
Jonar Nader: We have to know exactly what the problem is. The problem is not that we cannot trust the boy or the girl, because there is no boy or girl who loves to hurt themselves. I was meeting with the youth once, and there was this guy who arrived a bit late, and when he drove in, he wanted to make a little show-off moves, so he drove fast and he parked fast to show us that he can make a quick parking move, but he miss-calculated the distance, and very slightly pumped a sign in front of him, causing a very small scratch on his car. And he was extremely upset about it. No one who is showing off with his car, would like to be involved in an accident, but what do they really do? The whole thing is about showing off; however, people at the age of 25, 35, or 45 would also want to show off.
Host: Of Course everyone has his/her own problem, but there are young people drinking and driving.
Jonar Nader: Drinking and driving is not related only to young people, it is a society problem, and I have always told you my personal opinion of it. But, what is the real problem that we face? In the past, we use to follow what the opera singer does. If she shows up with a red hair, we all want red hair, if she is wearing something long, we all wear something long. But now, no one watches what the opera singer does, now everyone is watching what the movie stars and the sport stars are doing. Meaning that the concept of fame is different, and that means that the concept of self esteem is different. We use to say that the young man with a diploma is a bright one, but this is no longer enough to find self esteem. So where will the self esteem come from? You will find the young man looking for what is manly, and the young women looking for what is feminine, and they are looking for a thing through which they can prove themselves to those who underestimate them, even if this proof came from an external thing. Maybe I would think that intimidating others will give me the self value that I seek, a fake value of course, or maybe if the others thought I was rich, then I will get that value. You often find the person with a black belt in karate not talking about it to anyone, when the person who cannot fight keep talking about how expert he is in the martial arts.
Host (Laughing): That is because he has nothing for real. Jonar, surely you talk about these things with the youth when you meet them.
Jonar Nader: Actually, young people do not prefer to admit that they seek love and attention, and that they seek a person to tell them ‘You are normal, and we accept you’ And that is why they seek fame, and showing off. And if you take the car away from them, they will find another way to show off; they might join a gang or a team or something. That is why the desire for fame is the first issue here, the other issue that we need to know is the law of physics, I believe that young people who get involved in car accidents do not want these accidents to happen for sure, because they definitely are afraid of accidents, and afraid of the idea of hurting themselves or others. But they do not know the car physics, and that is not limited to young people alone, even grownups do not know exactly how good their driving skills are, and if you really want to help them out, it will not be through telling them ‘wait until your 20 or 25’ instead of that, we will start preparing you for driving at the age of 13 or 15, we will provide you with the full training that would enable you to control the car. But who gives this young person this kind of experience, if the young person asked his father to train him for 100, or 300 hours, he will not benefit a thing if the person training him cannot train and the car used is not suitable.
My reaction is that people of media are not doing their job correctly, and they are not asking the politicians the right question. Politicians are aware that parents want to know they are doing something to help protect their kids, because surly no one wants his children to get hurt, or to cause harm to others. Yet no one is asking the politicians the tough question. And now you and I are wasting our time talking about this from a political angle regarding increasing the legal driving age, when it has nothing to do with age. There are 14 years old boys and girls who own companies with 500 employees making 200 million dollars. 14 years old can skate upside down on his head. They are really smart.
Host: So you think they should reduce the legal age of driving, while they are asking for the opposite.
Jonar Nader: Yes, because you have to remove the mystery. Let’s say for example that you placed a mystery around the casino by telling someone that he cannot enter the casino until he is 30 years old, the guy will then go crazy wanting to know what is behind that door. Just the same of telling the young man that you cannot drive until you are 21 years old, what we did psychologically is telling the young man ‘You will be a man when you are 21’ because he sees driving as a symbol of manhood, in the past, there were different symbols of manhood, different rituals, different parties. It was for example connected to marriage, so the young man couldn’t wait to get married to gain the respect of the family.
Host: But the aim of rising the age here is to wait until the boy or the girl is more mature.
Jonar Nader: I don’t think that is right. We know for example that smoking is a killer, so does rising smoking age to 30 would increase the awareness of the smokers? If we increase the age of gambling, would that stop people from gambling? I think we should go the other direction, I think we should remove the mystery from things. We need to remove the relation between driving and manhood. Of course people will show off in a material way, so, what I am saying is that this is a complicated matter that needs to be addressed from psychological and material aspects. There are many people who should not have driving licenses, we see many bad drivers on the streets, doing stupid things, because they are drunk, or because they are texting while driving, so no one should have a driving licenses until they attend a perfect specialized driving school.
Host: So parents should not do the training.
Jonar: Of course not, where will they get the time and experience from? I am not saying that they are stupid; I am just saying that they are not professionals. You might be the number one scientist in Australia, but you still cannot train. You can be very smart in mathematics, but that does not necessary mean that you can teach, because teaching is a profession of its own, that is why the teacher should be as professional as the engineer, yet this does not mean that the engineer can teach. So, we cannot say that because my father is a great driver, it means he can teach me, because teaching is something else. And don’t forget that there are children who are stronger than their parents. So if you gave the boy or the girl the training book, and asked him to have it signed by the trainer for 100, or 200 hours, don’t you think he they can simply have their parents sign whatever they want?
Host: So you suggest that the driving schools should teach other things aside from driving?
Jonar: Yes of course, you have to teach me about accidents. If you want me to be a good soldier, you have to teach me how to kill, otherwise I will not be a strong solider. You see, here is the contradictory world that we live in. People think that the books I write are funny, in “How to lose friends” for example they think I am telling them something funny. But if you spend your entire life being told how to make friends, you will need someone to tell you how to lose them, if you spend your life being told that you have to be patient, someone must teach you when to step up and fight. If through all your life you have been learning how to be honest, and no one taught you what the liar is like, how would you know him? If everyone at your company is honest, how would you be able to see thieves and cheaters if you didn’t know what they are? So, I don’t want you to steal, but I want you to know how and what is a thief. So, if you are going to teach me safety, you have to teach me what is the unsafe path, the father cannot teach me the unsafe path. So, just like we have a place for shopping and a place for sport, we should have a place to train people how to drive, a special person to train, and a special car to use. There are places to teach professional driving, but they are commercial, while we need these places to be social and constructive, we need the student in these schools to be able to know what the water and oil on the road means, and to learn about the fact that I think I am invincible, because we all think that we are invincible. If you told me many times “Don’t Smoke” I will not listen to you, I mean look at the degusting photos they place on the cigarette box, do you think these pictures are stronger than the addiction? You are trying to get to my conscience so that I would say to myself ‘I don’t want to die’ or ‘I don’t want to lose my foot’ or ‘ I don’t want to have cancer’ Of course no one wants to have cancer, but after a little time, the body will speak a different language, will ask me for nicotine, and if I didn’t respond, it will take the control from me.
Host: But if there was a place dedicated for training, it will not be like the driving on the real road which is more realistic.
Jonar: That is true, but first, I need the driver to build a relation with the car and with the physics, because many people don’t know physics. People, who go into casinos for example, don’t know anything about the laws of probability in math. I think if you want to teach people about how stupid they are to go into a casino, and here I am not referring to people who go to casinos just to have fun or to waste time, I am talking about people who go in with even the smallest believe that they are going to win, these people do not know anything about math. So that is why we should teach these people about the laws of probability so they can understand math and say ‘I will never win’, because you can see them going in there saying ‘Maybe I will win today’ and that again is because they don’t understand math. And just the same, when the boy or the girl is behind the steering wheel, this time, it is not math they are not aware of, but physics of quantities, gravity and speed. And the father cannot teach these things at home, so there has to be a place dedicated for these things. Today we have advanced technologies in all areas, how do you think people learn how to be pilots? I have taken my nephews once to the special flight stimulator, it was amazing, with a cost of 30 million each, it is like a small room, not bigger than a car or a plane cabin, and in it they teach you everything related to flying an airplane, you don’t think they allow pilots to train on real airplanes before the use the stimulator do you? So, with the technology we have today, can’t we make a similar stimulator to teach car driving? Of Course we can. So my reaction is to oppose this political shift, and the tendency to say ‘We have a problem, ok let’s wait’. It is the same with unemployment, in the unemployment case, the politicians say ‘let’s keep them at school longer’ and I have always wondered why we keep kids at school until they are 18 years old. The answer is because it is more convenient for the government, so we can say that they are still students and not in the unemployment line.
Now, we have the psychological factor, the fame factor, the manhood factor, lack of physics knowledge factor, the fact that the trainer does not know how to train factor, because training is a profession, and not everyone who can drive, can train others to drive, and we also have the fact that a person who is trained to drive an automatic gear car might have to drive a manual shift, and the insufficient knowledge of oil, water and air. And of course, there are the alcohol and drugs issues. I might have told you that my mother spent 2 months in the hospital, and she was in the intensive care for 2 weeks. Intensive care means that you cannot even move. Next to her bed, was a 19 years old young man, who has been in the intensive care for more than 5 months by that time, which is a weird thing, because people only stay in the intensive care for a week or two, so why was this 19 years old in the intensive care for the last 5 month, and In a condition where he cannot move, talk, feel or anything, with half of his head in the fridge waiting to be reattached. The reason behind it all was that he was driving his motorcycle without a helmet, with drugs in his body, while it was raining and there was water in the streets, and he was speeding and he crossed a red light. Is there a bigger disaster? I have met his family, a wonderful family that has everything, so why doesn’t these young people have enough self esteem to the point they will go to drugs, and if someone thinks that he is suffering in his life, he should read the news for only one day to see how half the world is dying and being tortured, so was this kid being tortured to use drugs? And did he hate himself and needed his friends to love him so bad that he crossed the red light to impress them? Was he that busy to speed up to this level? So, the matter is the need for love, for self esteem, for self awareness, for community acknowledgment and that is why I don’t think rising the legal driving age will change anything, because the subject is bigger than this.
Host: The writer ‘Jonar Nader’ who lectures in the youth classes about seminars special for them.
Host: With that, we end the youth program ‘The Youth and The Future’