The Star-Herald

Driver education could benefit all

When a child becomes old enough to drive an automobile, it can be a scary time for any parent.

Welcome to my nightmare. For the past month, my oldest daughter has been taking driver education courses, and if the thought of her piloting a 3,000-pound automobile was not enough to scare me, the realization that my insurance premium is about to skyrocket surely does.

At 15 years of age, my daughter simply could not wait to drive, while my wife and I were less than enthused by the idea. But, we signed her up nonetheless, and on the very first day of class, the instructor set up a driving schedule that put her on the road far faster than I ever imagined.

Back when I was a youth, driver education was offered through the school department in what seemed like simply another course that all of my classmates took at the same time. Our two gym teachers — Mr. Spurling and Mr. Quint — served as the drivers ed instructors.

Perhaps time has impacted my own memories, but for some reason I remember having to sit through hours of classroom instruction, driving simulators and videos of “Blood on the Highway” that were enough to scare any student silly. Times have changed, I guess.

Once enrolled in the class, my daughter was quick to point out all the driving mistakes that others — myself included — make while on the road.

“Your hands are not at 10 and 2,” she will tell me. Or “that vehicle did not come to a complete stop.”  And she’s right. It is amazing how, after 30 years of driving, I have forgotten many of the rules of the road, and so, it seems, have many others.

Because of her promptings, I have become a more diligent driver and have also started noticing she is right on a number of these observations. Many, many people seem to have little regard for the basic driving rules of the road these days.

While sitting at a traffic light, I have lost count of how many vehicles in the oncoming traffic lane fail to yield the right of way to cars going straight. I am sure it is impatience on many people’s part. For some, it is a lot easier to pull out quickly once a traffic light turns green and make a fast left-hand turn, cutting off a car that is going straight, but it is illegal nonetheless.

I did that once back in my younger days as a rookie reporter. I had just raced out to a fire scene to get some pictures and was in a hurry to get back to develop the film (long before the days of digital cameras) so that we could have the images before deadline.

I cut off the car across from me who was going straight, and of course, there was a police car directly behind me. The officer pulled me over, but was kind enough to just give me a warning. That lesson, it appears, has stuck with me all this time.

Out of curiosity, I went online and took a sample driving test on the website https://usdriving.net/ and was amazed at the difficulty of some of the questions. For example, one question read, “If your brake pedal suddenly sinks to the floor, you should first?” I selected “Shift into neutral and shut off the engine,” but the correct answer was “Try to pump it to build up the pressure.”

Another asked, “When traveling behind a motorcycle, you should … A. Allow a following distance of at least 2 car lengths; B. Allow at least 2 seconds of following distance; C. Allow at least 4 seconds of following distance; and D. Allow a following distance of at least 4 motorcycle lengths.

I chose A, but the correct answer was C. Good to know.

Out of 30 random questions, I missed four, which was good enough to “pass” the exam, but I really expected to get them all correct.

I wonder how many drivers on the road today would be able to pass the exam? Perhaps routine follow-up exams should be mandatory for all drivers on the road today.

Joseph Cyr is the assistant editor/senior reporter for Northeast Publishing, a division of Bangor Daily News.  He can be reached at 532-2281 or via email at jcyr@bangordailynews.com

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