Yukoners sought to defend worst driving title

The last time some teenage hotshot in a red muscle car cut you off on the Alaska highway, the totalitarian notion of forcibly packing that driver off for "retraining" probably offered some comfort. For four seasons,

The last time some teenage hotshot in a red muscle car cut you off on the Alaska highway, the totalitarian notion of forcibly packing that driver off for “retraining” probably offered some comfort.

For four seasons, Canada’s Worst Driver has provided Canadian viewers with exactly that form of vicarious justice.

Worst driving contenders are first isolated in an abandoned military base in Ontario – dubbed the “rehabilitation centre.”

In a series of driving challenges, the least inept are slowly pared away until only one remains to accept the infamous “worst driver” title – and inviting the screen-hitting scorn of Discovery Channel viewers across the country.

Soon, producers of Canada’s Worst Driver will be in Whitehorse, combing the streets for the most inept operators ever to have gotten their hands on a Yukon driver’s licence.

“In the past four years, we’ve actually only had one nomination from the area – if you can believe it,” said Meredith Veats, media contact with Proper Television, the producer of Canada’s Worst Driver.

“So we figured there must still be a lot of bad drivers to help,” she said.

Contestants are nominated by friends and family – a tenuous arrangement that “sometimes” results in producers contacting unwitting – and defensive – nominees, said Veats.

After a brief interview, scouts then go for a harrowing road test with the candidate to see if they really do qualify as being among the “worst of the worst,” she said.

The show originally took seed in the UK. From there, the show quickly moved throughout the European Union and the Commonwealth, sparking spinoffs in Austria (Osterreichs schlechtester Autofahrer), Poland (Najgorszy polski kierowca), Belgium (Y’a pas pire conducteur) and seven other countries spanning three continents.

Britain’s Worst Driver follows in the footsteps of Robot Wars, Survivor, Big Brother, and Who Wants to be a Millionnaire? – all of whom have shaken off their humble BBC roots and received worldwide syndication.

Britons used to take pride that the sun always shone on some far-flung patch of their global empire. In the 21st century, the sons and daughters of King Arthur can now take pride that the sun never sets on low-budget British reality-show clones.

The agrarian former Soviet republic of Lithuania, with an appalling 22.3 drivers killed every year for every 100,000 (Europe’s highest), has so far failed to adopt a Lithuanian-language installment of the series.

What sets Canada’s Worst Driver apart from its reality-TV counterparts is its altruistic commitment to “training” Canada’s worst drivers, rather than just ridiculing them. We can laugh at the paraded ineptitude of Canadian motorists, but we can assuage our guilt with the notion that they are receiving “help”- sort of like buying Playboy for the articles.

“The first challenge is this all-decisive final episode is called driving in a straight line with a slight turn in the middle,” said host Andrew Younghusband at the start of the show’s season four finale.

“To imagine this course, just picture someone driving in a straight line with a slight turn in the middle,” he added.

“It’s amazing how much (the show) actually really helps; the challenges are so intense and so well designed that it makes a huge difference when people go back onto regular roads,” said Veats.

The show’s fourth season handed the worst driver crown to Ashley from Medicine Hat, Alberta.

“Do I love being known as Canada’s Worst Driver? Totally not!” said Ashley in her closing comments.

“But I’m a lot safer in a car than I was before,” she said.

It’s driver training on steroids. In only a few days on an abandoned military base, drivers can have decades of bad habits ironed out. In the process, they can exact cringe-worthy damage upon an endless lineup of gleaming classic cars.

In the show’s previous four seasons, the Yukon has somehow managed to escape the show’s lens, despite the territory’s unenviable position as having the highest number traffic fatalities of any other Canadian jurisdiction, according to a July report by Statistics Canada.

Between 2000 and 2004, car crashes killed Yukoners at a rate of 16.4 motorists for every 100,000 drivers.

Nationwide, 9.1 out of every 100,000 Canadians are killed every year by motor vehicle accidents, representing 1.3 per cent of the total Canadian death rate.

Quebec, where driving aggressively on icy, dilapidated highways is a provincial pastime, drivers manage to stay under the Canadian average, killing only nine drivers out of every 100,000.

NWT, arguably plagued with the same wintry driving conditions as the Yukon, comes in at only 9.6 deaths per 100,000.

Worst drivers come in all shapes and sizes. But to look good on camera, the drivers must exhibit theatrically bad driving qualities.

“The aggressive ones, definitely, and also the underconfident drivers, people with colourful driving histories, people who have hit a lot of objects,” said Veats.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

tristinh@yukon-news.com

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