Magnet aims to encourage patience with young drivers

A Montreal company is creating "Élève au volant" stickers for new drivers who need a little space on the road

When my twin daughters earned their learners’ permits this past summer, I got an entirely new perspective on our fellow Montreal drivers.

Like most newly-minted permit holders, my girls were obedient rule followers: three seconds at stop signs, carefully observing speed limits, stopping at yellow lights rather than hitting the accelerator, signalling before every move. Pretty good, right?

But the problem is that very few other drivers follow the rules with any consistency. Cocooned in the safety and privacy of their own vehicles, many become frighteningly rude. We heard angry horns if they stopped for the full beat at a stop sign, experienced tailgating if they dared to drive at the requisite 30 kilometres per hour passing a park and endured expletives shouted at us if they hesitated before turning at an intersection. Those people not only sour my perspective on humanity, but they also make my daughters quite nervous behind the wheel. That really isn’t what you want in brand new drivers.

Enter Richard Saltzman, president of Montreal Stencil, a Montreal printing firm.  A longtime friend, he noticed a Facebook conversation thread about this problem between parents with kids the same age and myself. Someone pointed out that you can order magnets that say “Student Driver” online to place on the cars young learners are driving, but nobody seemed to offer a French version.

“We realized from the enthusiastic reaction online that there was a demand for this product.” Saltzman said. “It’s similar to other items that we regularly produce in house, so we put together an “Élève au volant” car magnet for Quebec student drivers.”

Saltzman’s own daughter, Samantha, is also a new driver and they have endured frightening experiences with tailgaters and impatient drivers.

“My daughter thinks the magnet is a good thing,” he said. “It lets people know to back off and give her time and space, so it lets her relax more behind the wheel. Impatient drivers can be very unnerving for both parent and child. But if you explain to people why you are driving slowly, they may be more patient.”

Saltzman says he’s heard numerous stories from relieved parents about how other drivers give the student drivers more room once they see the magnets. “Parents are just as nervous as their kids because [they] have no control. The driving school cars have an additional set of brakes, but in your own car you don’t have that. Anything we can put on our car to help is a positive.”

Our family keeps the magnets in the car at all times, to be pulled out whenever one of my daughters gets behind the wheel. It’s made a big difference in the level of patience from other drivers, so there are fewer rude gestures and angrily honked horns. But it’s also safer, because other drivers know to give them space when they are merging onto the Decarie Expressway or passing a snow removal truck.

Saltzman says that the rectangular magnet adheres to any metallic surface on a car, and won’t damage the paint finish if the car and magnet are kept clean. He recommends drivers put one on the back of the car near the licence plate or signal lights, and a second one on the driver’s side door. To maximize visibility and the reflective quality of the vinyl, they should go on a horizontal surface.

The magnets sell for $9.95 for one, $14.95 for two, and $19.95 for three, plus shipping and handling. To save on shipping costs, magnets can also be picked up from Montreal Stencil, 3537 Ashby St. in St. Laurent.

To order, call 514-866-4721 or fill in the request form at montrealstencil.com.