Last week my youngest son became eligible to get his driver’s permit. He didn’t get to do it on his exact birthday because we are waiting for his birth certificate to prove he is…alive? At any rate, we will be darkening the door of Iowa DMV in the near future. My nephews and niece will be eligible to follow him every other year for the upcoming eight years. Once my son actually opens the DMV booklet instead of planting himself in front of his TV show du jour, he will want to take the test, and he will probably pass it.
I am worried. Really worried. Not because of him – he will learn slowly (He will drive slowly past corn fields and down rambling country roads.) He has a car picked out that he wants for his 16th birthday (Good to have a dream, son.) And, he is already asking to pump gas for me. (He hasn’t asked to buy it yet, but you know, baby steps.) Still, I am worried.
I’m worried because this summer I traveled over 3500 miles and because I drive every day as a part of my job. And, the vast majority of American drivers are self-involved assholes behind the wheel.
I have a few pointers for everyone on the highways and byways. Perhaps this will assuage my occasional flare-ups of road rage (i.e. “What the actual fuck – is he going around the world to the left?” or “Is she waiting for a particular shade of green?”); perhaps this will prove instructive; maybe you will just shake your head in commiseration; or, perhaps we might just save a life.
1. Watch your turn signals.
1a. make sure you use them
2a. make sure you turn them off when you don’t intend to turn
2. The left lane.
2a. acknowledged: it is a passing lane for faster moving traffic
2b. not acknowledged: if I am driving at the speed limit and passing someone who is traveling below the speed limit, I am not obligated to exceed the speed limit to accommodate you
2c. back off
3. Watch your speed.
3a. speed limits – love them or hate them, but at least know them (you really should follow them – yeah, I sound like a nerd, but I’ll own that)
3b. do not expect others to slow down or speed up just because you’re too lazy to take off your cruise control
4. Center Line and the Shoulder
4a. choose a side
4b. pass as needed, but the the center line of any road is not a third lane
4c. the shoulder is not a third lane, either – relax
5a. only if you absolutely have to
5b. set it up before you leave a stationary position
5c. we would rather you arrive with ketchup on your tie than have you in a ditch or worse
6. Trucks and Motorcycles
6a. trucks: yeah, they suck; but, they are giant and can’t stop fast, so respect the truck.
6b. motorcycles: yeah, they’re insane sometimes, but I’ve heard more than one medical professional call them “donorcycles,” so respect the cycle.
7. Texting and Social Media and Telephoning and Personal Grooming
7a. Texting: no. No. NO.
7b. Social Media: no. No. NO.
7c. Personal Grooming: no. No. NO. (Seriously? Get up 15 minutes earlier.)
7d. Talking on the phone: only if absolutely necessary, preferably with Bluetooth
As a person who has put over 30,000 miles on her car this past year, I know from whence I write. I want us all to drive wherever we want, get there on time, and be happy. I want us all to be alive.
Those of you that know me, you know that my sister died in a single car automobile accident years ago. Since then, I have had four friends who have lost loved ones in car wrecks.
To rephrase Tommy LaSorda, “Driving is like baseball, it’s the one who gets home that is safe.”