Woman urges vehicle IDs for new motorists

Rusty's Driving School student Renee Williamson (left) adjusts her seat and buckles up Wednesday under supervision of Rusty Hires before beginning a driving lesson.

Melissa Haneline

COLUMBIA — Bette Century Thomas has an idea for state government that she thinks will save lives.

Century Thomas of Summerville said the Legislature could make South Carolina roads safer if the state designed incentives for drivers who label their vehicles with magnets to alert others that they are inexperienced.

"If you see that, maybe you give the person a little understanding, a little less road rage," she said.

Rep. Joe Daning, R-Goose Creek, said he likes the idea but has to do some research before deciding whether to introduce a bill when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

"It gives other drivers a heads up," said Daning, who Century Thomas called earlier this week with the proposal. "Sometimes it is a small idea like that, that turns on a light bulb."

Rusty Hires of Rusty's Driving School said he thinks "inexperienced driver" magnets aren't a good idea. He said it would open the new drivers up to harassment.

He has seen that happen. State law requires driving school cars to be marked.

"People are less courteous," he said. "They do mean things, pass incorrectly, tailgate and blow the horn at you.

"They would go after you like a turkey shoot."

Century Thomas said she saw the concept work while she was stationed with the Air Force in Japan. There, inexperienced drivers are given an identifying label for the back of their cars, she said.

Century Thomas said she is not sure what kind of breaks the state could find for using an "inexperienced driver" magnet but thought it would be worth checking out.

She came up with the idea after not being able to shake the news of the deaths of Cushire Akabidavis, 15, and her mother, Christina, who were killed last month when the teen pulled in front of a cement truck on Interstate 26.

Cushire and her twin sister Rishire had just received their learner's permits.

While Century Thomas said she does not think that accident could have been avoided with an "inexperienced driver" magnet, she thinks it will give new drivers a little grace on the roads.

"It is a way of letting society know, 'Have a little patience with this driver,' " Century Thomas said.