Pine River parent says student driver stickers improved learning experience
French rule identifying student drivers could be a good fit in the U.S.
PINE RIVER — A column in the PineandLakes Echo Journal in early August caught the attention of two mothers in Pine River.
The subject of State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow's column was the legality of having a "Student Driver" sticker or magnet on the vehicle of students who are practicing driving for their license or new to driving legally. A parent had asked whether those stickers are legal.
I like it. They don't give me the finger at all.
Grabow said they are legal, but he advised the parent to consider a sticker that is different from the "Student Driver" stickers required on driver's education cars.
Though maybe not the norm, the column was relatable for Sarah Norman, a mother of three from Pine River who has used a student driver sticker on her vehicle since her oldest, Hunter, began driving approximately two years ago.
"A friend had them for her kids," Norman said. "When our oldest got his permit, we got one. That's kind of where I got the idea. I think he drove with them basically the whole time."
Norman said on occasions that her children have been driving without the stickers, she noted a real change in the drivers around them.
You don't want to be that part of the driving lesson.
You don't want to be that part of the driving lesson
She posted in support of the idea, and it got another local parent thinking.
Melanie Lindquist has four children. Three of them have yet to get their drivers licenses, and she might consider learning from Norman's experience. She said when her oldest was learning to drive, other motorists showed a great deal of impatience as she encountered new things and had to learn from them.
"There were just a few instances where we were in Brainerd and she was hesitant about pulling into traffic," Lindquist said. "She wasn't sure how fast traffic was coming and she got nervous. We had someone behind us honking at her, which doesn't make it any better. It just made her more nervous. I just thought, if there was a sticker on our car they would be nicer to her."
She even noticed how impatient other drivers were with her daughter when they were driving the speed limit.
Lindquist said after seeing Norman's comment, she is going to get a sticker or magnet. But she is worried her next in line will feel singled out to have a magnet on her car.
"I'm going to do it, but I bet my next child coming up is not going to want it on the car because it's not normal," Lindquist said. "Like it will make her stand out."
I feel like drivers are more patient. If I could drive with it myself I would. We have family in Iowa so we drive down there. We like to have them try and drive on the interstate. It's really a 90-degree difference.
As for the Normans, Hunter said he liked the magnet and didn't feel embarrassed to have it on his vehicle.
"I wasn't self conscious," Hunter said. "I think it helped. I had people slow down behind me. It's just a caution sign. It's definitely safer to have those, I think."
His brother, Tate, said he also feels happy to have it on the vehicle while he is learning. When they drive without the sticker, he's noticed the drivers around him behave differently.
"People get annoyed way easier if I don't have the sticker on," Tate said. "They don't give as much space. They're right on my tail."
With the sticker, he noticed more patience and fewer signs of disapproval.
"I like it. They don't give me the finger at all," Tate said.
At the very least, the stickers give parents a peace of mind.
"I feel like drivers are more patient," Norman said. "If I could drive with it myself I would. We have family in Iowa so we drive down there. We like to have them try and drive on the interstate. It's really a 90-degree difference. I think it gives them more room to learn without people right on his tail. I think for young drivers that can really stress them out."
Lindquist said in France, student drivers are required to have a large "A" on their vehicle identifying them as an apprentice driver. It's something she wouldn't mind seeing at home.
"When I was in France I was there with a host brother and sister," Lindquist said. "My host sister was in the middle of doing driver's education stuff. We were talking about that sticker. As soon as they get their license they actually have to have that sticker for three years, and that makes so much sense to me. People are more careful around them, more compassionate as to why they're making mistakes or going a little slower."
Norman would like all student drivers to receive one automatically.
"I'd like to see them given out at driver's ed," she said. "They aren't crazy expensive. I think it would be a nice thing to have on cars."
Mike Lupella, Pine River-Backus driver's education instructor for five years, was the instructor for Norman's and Lindquist's children. He feels like the student driver sticker on his own instructional vehicle makes nearby motorists drive more carefully and show better driving habits around him.
"I hope that sticker on a parent's car would do the same thing," Lupella said. "Give people a little more follow distance with a little more patience. And if they were planning on making a driving error, they might second guess that and try to demonstrate good driving skills in front of the student driver."
Lupella said one of his instructional methods is to point out driving errors and ask his students to identify what went wrong.
"You don't want to be that part of the driving lesson," Lupella said.
As for legality, there is at least one thing to be cautious about.
Grabow said, "If you do place a sign or decal on the vehicle, make sure that it is not in a windshield or window as that would be an equipment violation and safety issue."
Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.