After years of saying 'no, I'm fine on the bus, thanks', I'm finally learning to drive. My decision to do so is proving to be a moral dilemma
Hi, I'm a millennial.
Like many of my friends born between 1981 and 1996, I don't know how to drive. Having grown up near a (somewhat) decent bus route on the outskirts of Dublin, I never had much of a need to learn.
After all, why fork out thousands of euro on a vehicle, car tax, insurance and fuel when I can just board a 39A for €2.60-a-pop on my Leap Card? To me, driving made zero economic sense (plus you can't benefit from the very convenient bus lanes).
But I've recently had a change of heart.
Now aged 28, my circumstances have changed. I live (what feels like a million) miles away from my job and the public transport systems aren't the May West. What's more, I'm aware my parents are getting older, and I'd like to have the option to bring them from A to B if needed.
Throw in feelings of overwhelming guilt and incompetence at not being able to help out on road trips and suddenly, learning to drive seems more essential than ever.
With that in mind, I recently sat my theory test and supplied my documents to the NDLS. My new learner's permit is expected to arrive in seven to 10 working days.
The environmental question
Part of my reasoning for not learning to drive sooner is my carbon footprint. I'm a bit of an eco-warrior, and since committing to being an 'Agent of Change' at Ireland's Cool Planet Experience and a member of Repak's 'Team Green', reducing my carbon footprint has become a priority.
Buying a car and driving across the capital goes against everything I believe in. Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg managed to sail across the North Atlantic for 15 days in an effort to reduce her carbon footprint. Surely I can manage a bus-cum-train combo between north and south Dublin?
In an attempt to offshoot some of my guilt, I've been considering buying an electric car; something a large percentage of drivers will have to do in the coming years anyway.
Our Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton said he plans to have 950,000 electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2030; just 10 years from now. With only 4,825 electric cars on the road last year, a lot more people will need to invest.
Perhaps I could own one of them?
While I understand electric cars come with their own problems (the limited number of charging points across the Republic of Ireland is definitely discouraging), the positives still outrank the negatives, right?
Manual v Automatic
The trouble with going electric, however, is the car will be automatic. As a learner driver, this puts me in a tricky situation.
If I purchase, learn to drive, and subsequently pass my test in an electric vehicle – I won't legally be allowed to drive a manual one. Having garnered advice from close family and friends, this isn't wise. What if there's an emergency and I need to drive a car with a gearstick? I'll be as useless as I am now.
"What's the point in learning to drive at all if you're restricting yourself to automatics?" they say.
It's something I need to weigh up.
As you can probably tell, I feel incredibly conflicted about this new challenge. On one hand, I want to repay my parents by driving them places – even if just to a doctor's appointment. If I ever have children, I'd like to be able to bring them to sports practice.
I want to contribute to road trips with friends. I want the freedom of travelling to work on my schedule, not that of Irish Rail.
But, am I ready for the financial investment? Am I prepared to let down my fellow climate activists? I don't know.
All, if any, advice welcome.
Photo: Tim Gouw from Pexels
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