Desire for discovery should be driving NSW travellers | Wheeler’s Wisdom | The Canberra Times


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The lengthy COVID test hold-ups have been blamed partly on people needing to be tested before travelling interstate. Why must people go somewhere by plane for holidays? Why not holiday somewhere in NSW? Why not use the chance to escape from Sydney and spend your holiday simply exploring, in the COVID-safe cocoon of your car? Today’s cars are great for lengthy journeys, even the smallest ones. So why don’t young people drive? I checked the statistics, as best as I could ascertain in this holiday period. A CarAdvice story from 2017 said only 80.1 per cent of people aged 17 to 20 in NSW hold a licence. That number has declined since 2012. In the 21 to 25 age group, 91.4 per cent of people had a driver licence, but that figure had declined too. An RACV study showed that, “… for the years 2001 to 2016, there has been an overall 18 per cent decrease in young Victorian adults aged 18 to 24 holding a driver licence. In 2016, over a third (37 per cent) of Victorian adults aged 18 to 24 did not hold a driver licence.” Victorian metropolitan figures declined, while rural numbers increased by 4.7 per cent. IN OTHER NEWS: The RACV survey revealed declines in the proportions of young adults with driver licences in the United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom and Germany. The UK has had a 20 per cent drop in the overall number of under-25s learning to drive. Why? I can understand the British figures because of tightening rules in London. While visiting Britain in 2007, at the Rye Railway Station I discovered that the price of an annual ticket to London would be over 2000 pounds. The ticket-seller explained that the normal annual salary in Rye would be about 20,000 pounds, but in London the same job would command 25,000 pounds. “And here in Rye you can own a car,” he added. Questioning further, homes in Rye generally had room to garage a car, and there were no punitive taxes when driving, as in Central London. So is this an inner city phenomenon? I couldn’t find a Wagga figure, but I know that my grandchildren couldn’t wait to have their Ps, and it seems their friends likewise want to drive. We in Wagga have wide open spaces, and little difficulty parking. Our “peak hour” crushes on the Gobba Bridge or along Pearson Street would make a city driver laugh. It might be more to do with high-rise living. Regular readers of this column may recall my story about hosting a very senior public servant for three days, as we toured the Riverina visiting schools. It was July, mild temperatures, sunshine, green grass, kangaroos – he concluded that the Riverina was so pretty that he would like to bring his family. “Where’s the nearest airport?” he asked as we drove along the shores of the Blowering Dam at dawn. When I explained that it was far easier to simply drive down the highway, he said they didn’t own a family car. Holidays? They went to Bali, Fiji and so on. Being near the airport had its advantages, he said. The problem is that Australia is not just Sydney or Melbourne. If city voters aren’t getting out to see the “real Australia” then they will continue to vote for policies that disregard regional areas. Here’s another problem: According to the Legal Aid website, Narrandera LGA ranked Number One in NSW for driving without a licence, up 69 per cent over the past two years. Does that imply that maybe the number of hours required and the cost, could be factors? Not only disadvantaged youth, but city dwellers may find the Learner conditions too onerous. I recently bought a Valiant in suburban Sydney, purchased new by the family in 1967. I sent some pictures of this car’s adventures in the Riverina – snow at Kunama, dirt roads near Ladysmith, next to canola crops, on the plains near Deniliquin. The family replied that the Valiant’s longest journey out of Sydney had been to the Central Coast. Maybe city people not driving to the country for holidays is nothing new.

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