Sunday, June 29, 2008

Driver's Ed Should Be Required!

(Repost...originally written & posted on Myspace on date listed below)
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Driver's Ed should be required!
Current mood: annoyed

Two people have died on the interstate this week. I heard about them on the news. There was a time, when you could look up at the Vulcan statue, standing guard over Birmingham (while simultaneously mooning Homewood) atop Red Mountain, and know someone had lost their life. ( ) . If someone had died in a traffic accident, Vulcan's light was red, and green when all was clear. I remember looking for that all my life and feeling sad when the light was red. When they restored Vulcan in 1999, they replaced the torch with a spear, which I'm told is what he was originally intended to hold. Now you have to read about traffic fatalities in the news again.

But Vulcan history is not my intended topic. People who make stupid driving mistakes is.

Those of you who know me, know what a careful driver I am. You also know that stupid drivers are in my top ten, biggest, all time pet peeves. It's pretty high on the list, like number 2 or 3. It runs a pretty close race with my number 1, people who don't wash their hands in the bathroom. The thought that there are people out there that think that's okay nearly gives me hives, but that is a story for another day.

Even in my wild teenage years, safe driving was paramount. Over the years I have seen friends and family needlessly injured and even lost a few, some very dear to me, to the perils of motor vehicle operations. In every situation, regardless of who was at fault, it all boils down to someone being stupid & careless.

I now drive, twice a day, along a stretch of Interstate 20, known here in Alabama as "Death Valley." Those unfamiliar with I-20, it runs west to east across Alabama from Mississippi to Georgia. "Death Valley" starts at Leeds exit 144 and runs to somewhere around the Talledega Motor Speedway exit at Lincoln. It is called this because, reportedly, there have been more fatalities here than any other area of interstate in the state, including I-65 that runs from Tennessee all the way to the Gulf Coast. It is also here that I encounter the majority of the state's stupid drivers. I often wonder if I was one of the only people to actually take Driver's Education, (as mandated by my parents and their insurance company) because most of the stupidity I see was covered in the very first week!

When I was a Sophomore at dear old LHS, I was given the "option" to take driver's ed. My parents were insistent, as neither of them had quite the patience to let me get above 10 miles an hour or out of our neighborhood. Although I had inherited my grandmother's 1972 school-bus-yellow Vega at 12, and sat longingly behind the wheel for close to three years, I had little actual driving experience. There were the occasional attempts by my high-school boyfriend to teach me to drive his car, but despite his patient nature, I made him nervous as well. So my driving instruction was left to the expert educators, one of which was my next door neighbor, our football coach Coach Joe Campbell (Lord, rest his soul).

It was pretty much a "pass or fail" course and pretty much everyone who attended passed. I only knew of one person who actually failed, but that is what wrecking the driver's ed car will do for you.

I remember very little about the actual class, other than the car had a brake on the passenger side (Cool! would like that now sometimes when I have to ride with Heath or Julia!) and we watched the mandatory scratchy, reel-to-reel version of "Blood on the Highway", circa 1960-something.

When it came to the actual driving, we were split into groups of four that would take turns driving around Leeds. My group included my friends Eve and Melissa and a young lady whose name escapes me. I do remember that she had very long hair, wore dresses all the time and was very quiet. I also remember that she was a Senior and was in our class, two years after it was first offered to her as an elective, because she had finally, successfully convinced her parents that she needed to know how to drive.

Melissa and Eve were experienced drivers, turning 16 in the middle of that school year. They, like me, were in the class because of the insurance discount and it gave them something to do for an hour out of the school day. I felt pretty safe riding along when they drove. Our Senior, however, was quite a different story. Because of her parents reluctance to allow her to drive, she had even less outside driving training than I did and often would wear on Coach's patience. I remember once, narrowly missing another car, she threw her hands over her face, leaving Coach to grab the wheel and stand on the passenger brake. I don't know what happened to her after she graduated, but I will say, I hope she is not driving!

Some stupid mistakes that really get on my nerves are:

Not using turn all....ever. A driver about to execute any type of turn or lane change is to indicate it by engaging their turn signal. For those of you offenders, that is the little lever sticking out of the side of the steering wheel. It is not for hanging up your sunglasses.

Not checking the "blind spot." This is the area on the sides of your vehicle NOT VISIBLE IN YOUR MIRRORS. I am constantly amazed at the people who, not only do not indicate that they are changing lanes, but also do not bother to see if anyone is already driving in that lane! These are the people who nearly sideswipe you, then have the audacity to cuss at you and flip you the finger for their stupidity. How dare you already be driving in that lane!

Related: Not turning around to back up. You know, throw your arm over the seat and turn around. First rule of driving, look in the direction you are going. Most of the time I am a pedestrian when I run into these yahoos. However, every now and again, when I am trying to back out at the Walmart, I see them coming. Usually because I am watching them start toward me as I am backing out. You have to honk at these people or they plow right into you. The trucks at my company have those beeping back-up signals.

I wish all cars had them. Maybe then some of these people would turn around and look.

Failing to properly yeild to the right of way. If you are currently driving in a lane, be it on a city street or the interstate, it is "your" lane. Anyone wishing to merge into that lane must yeild to YOUR right of way. They are to signal their intent (the aforementioned lever on the steering column), then wait for YOUR response. You may choose to let them in front of you or you may not. It is up to YOU. You can be nice and pull over or slow down to let them into your lane, but you don't have to.

You are in "possesion" of that lane.

This includes traffic merging onto the interstate. Just because their turn indicator is engaged does not give them the right of way either. Merging drivers need your permission or wait for another opening.

Notable exception: Pedestrians and all emergency vehicles have the right of way. Emergency vehicles take precident and are to be granted right of way as soon as safely possible.

People who do not grant emergency vehicles right of way. Have you ever been the victim of an emergency situation, waiting for the blasted ambulance or fire truck to come and it feels like forever for it to get there? That is because there are selfish, stupid, dense, uneducated people in their way. My brother drove an ambulance before he became a police officer. My best friend was an EMT and volunteer fire fighter. Both have related horror stories of people who refused to let them pass, or equally as bad, did not know what to do and stop dead in the middle of the road. The preferred method, if they are behind you is to pull to the right and let them pass on your left. If they are approaching you, also pull to the right. This makes an opening that the vehicle can safely pass between the opposing lanes of traffic.

Lights and sirens mean someone's life is in danger. Move as quickly as safely possible. Remember this one thought: One day, it could be you or a loved one waiting for that vehicle.

Not driving the posted speed limit. If you need to get there faster, leave earlier. People who speed make me mad, people who drive too slow make me mad. People who speed up and slow down so you can't pass them make me furious. I stopped carrying my gun in the car for this very reason.

Passing in the marked "no passing" zone. These people not only endanger themselves, their stupidity endagers others as well. These zones are marked this way for very good reasons, whether you see their value or not. I'm sorry that I am driving the posted speed limit and you think you need to get around me. You should have left earlier.

Failing to obey traffic signs and signals. These are not there for decoration. They are for information. If you are unfamiliar with the meanings of different traffic signs and signals, how the hell did you pass your driver's test?! This reminds me of the very elderly lady, who nearly ran me down in the Walmart parking lot last September as I crossed in the very wide, very obvious pedestrian crosswalk.(Remember aforementioned Pedestrian Right of Way exception) This old bag then had the audacity to cuss at me and call me stupid. I was really missing that gun about then, but I politely aquainted her with the pedestrian crosswalk sign that was apparently invented long after she first obtained her driver's license 100 years ago.

I could go on and on, but I don't think dear old Tom intended for me to use all of Myspace-dom to vent on every stupid driver I've ever encountered in the 23 years I've been driving.

I will say this. I wish the powers-that-be would recognize the importance of driver's ed for all licensed drivers. It should be required, in some form, prior to being able to obtain a driver's license. I insisted that Julia take it when it was offered as an elective and in two years, Tyler will be taking it and Kaitlyn the year after that or they can forget me taking them for that license!

If Vulcan still had his torch, he'd be telling you right now.."Keep it green"

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