There’s nothing like a new driver in the house to point out your every flaw behind the wheel. It began almost as quickly as my son got his permit.
“You’re not supposed to turn in this lane. You’re supposed to turn in that one.”
“Tsk tsk…you’re exceeding the speed limit.”
“You’re not six car lengths from the person in front of us.”
“Way to hit the pothole Mom.”
It’s amazing how all knowing a 15-year-old can believe his self to be. But unfortunately in this case, mine made some fairly accurate observations.
I found myself relearning many rules of the road through my son’s comments because the majority of us drivers are breaking them. And what happens when enough drivers break the same rule? You forget the correct way, and start doing it the wrong way.
You might be shaking your head no, as if you haven’t succumbed to this, but I’ve got the perfect example. If turning left at a four-way intersection with a light, the driver should turn into the closest lane, not the far lane. If there are two lanes, that means turning into the left lane.
I’ve been paying rapt attention to this for the past year since “permit boy” piped up about it and I haven’t seen anyone do it right yet.
Another common dilemma is right of way. I’ve seen a number of people stymied at a four way stop; some just wave me on instead of following the rule (please note waving me on is not the right protocol no matter how friendly you think it is.)
Even more folks are unclear about how cars making a right turn at intersections have the right of way over cars turning left from the opposite direction.
People are also often confused when they reach a roundabout, or circle. I’ve noticed this has become a popular road configuration in the past decade so there are more of them and more drivers who are bewildered.
After a year or so of permit driving, my son obtained his driver’s license, making him even more of an “expert,” but it’s made me wonder how many of us who’ve been driving for decades could pass the driver’s test today with our bad habits and sheep-following mentalities.
It’s also reminded me how annoying teenagers can be.
I personally have to check myself when I drive so I don’t get agitated. I learned impatience directly from my father, who drove like a madman, much the way he hurried through most tasks in life — as if all our lives depended on saving ten minutes.
I have to remind myself to slow down, stop tailgating and give rude drivers a pass, instead of maybe a hand gesture or cussing them out in the privacy of my vehicle.
Of course, I passed down my inherited bad habits — it was inevitable — to my teen driver. I remember he was the tender age of four when I heard him mutter from his booster seat in the back, “C’mon lady!” to a slow driver ahead just like he’d heard his mom say hundreds of times.
This does not mean I am a bad or unsafe driver, but I could certainly be smoother, happier and more vigilant about what my husband calls “being situationally aware.”
Luckily my son has his father as another role model, even though that’s dangerous territory. My husband is a professional driving instructor. Not in the sense you might picture, such as a driver’s education teacher, but more of a guy who teaches high-threat driving where you learn exciting evasive maneuvers and techniques, drive under pressure and feel like a real cowboy.
I’m sure my son aspires to drive as well as his father, and he has learned some valuable skills under his tutelage. Yet like many boys, I hear the yearning in his voice to “do a burnout” or “turn some donuts” like the guys I knew when I was a teen regularly performed. And, ahem, like his father still does when the opportunity knocks.
I’m sure we’ll all get through this latest life marker, hopefully without any accidents or problems. This is our last child to cross the threshold of licensed driver, and he is showing diligence, caution and awareness. Behind the wheel anyhow.
A collection of columns, articles and general a-musings.