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Monday, April 16, 2012

Young Drivers

There're a bunch of these signs all over my neighborhood, but with my 15 1/2 year old daughter getting her learner's permit, I'm thinking they might have it wrong. Perhaps it should be "Live like my kids drive here" or at least "Drive like my kids drive here".

All I can say about teaching a new driver in a crowded urban environment with steep hills and aggressive, fast, uncourteous drivers (like, um well, me) is, "Holy _____!!!!", where you fill in the blank with your favorite expletive. The two questions that immediately came to mind when sitting in the car with my daughter were, "Was I really that bad when I started learning how to drive?" and "Is it really possible that my parents had the patience and fortitude to deal with me when I was learning how to drive?" Again, all I can say is, "Holy _____!!!!"

The good news is that the law requires that the new driver have 2 hours behind the wheel with a professional instructor before the parents get the "opportunity" to be involved in the learning process. It sets you back some serious money and I wonder how poor folk manage to pay for it, but I've never been more grateful for the "Nanny State" than for that specific piece of legislation (yes, I'm well aware I could've paid for lessons anyway, but honestly, it wouldn't've occurred to me to do so). I'm wondering what the life expectancy of the professional instructors is? Yeah, they got that extra brake pedal on the passenger side (I now wish my car had one of those), but still, the stress alone must take years off of their lives.

Speaking of that extra brake pedal, several people have asked me if I find myself stepping on an imaginary brake pedal as my daughter drives. Not so much, as my hand is on or near the emergency brake that's conveniently directly between the driver and the passenger seat (I haven't actually used it yet). Instead, I find myself stepping on the imaginary gas pedal. If she drove any slower, we could just walk and get there faster. If she doesn't start driving a little faster, it'll be a miracle if we don't get rear-ended. There's already been numerous honks and a few close misses on the rear end of the car.

She's now been driving about 20 hours and she's gotten better enough that I find myself glad to be chauffeured around most of the time. Except when, out of nowhere, one of those unexpected and unusual situations occurs that completely flummox the inexperienced driver whose ensuing lack of judgment causes a near catastrophic situation.

Then all I can say is, "Holy _____!!!!!"


Susan's Husband said...

So much easier here in the MidWest. Lots of roads with basically no traffic. In fact we have enough land that we'll be able to send the kids out on private property to practice before they do actual roads. Lots of the farm kids are driving long before they are 16 and after driving a 16 ton truck around a corn field, a passenger car is no big deal.

erp said...

I started out my kids driving a VW Beetle in an empty parking lot early on Sunday mornings. After bronco busting around that first morning, they "got" it and off we went into suburban Connecticut Sunday morning traffic. After the VW, driving the big Country Squire with automatic transmission was almost too easy.

They had hundreds of hours behind the wheel by the time they took the test.

My worst problem was that as soon as they got the license, they wanted to take all their friends on trips to distant cities like NY and Boston and legally, at that time, they could do so. We let them go and they did fine, but I came by my white hair very early on.

With three kids, I spent a lot of time in a Beetle (we had five over the years -- each one with a story to tell) and had the best one-on-one conversations with the trainees that we ever had before or since.

Stay cool dad. She'll do you proud.

Hey Skipper said...

In Anchorage, we have a pretty good mix of sparsely traveled, city, and highway roads.

I started them off in the High School parking lot, in a low-powered econobox automatic (Subaru Outback). The woman child was intimidate, hesitant and slow, with very little kinesthetic (i.e., feel for the car) sense. The man child just got in and drove.

When it came to getting out on the road, my daughter was performing free aneurysm tests on the drivers behind her, but made very few technical errors (e.g., not stopping at a red before turning right.)_ She actively avoids driving. I think in the back of her mind there will always be a member of team testosterone to pick up that chore.

My son made way more mistakes at first, like rolling the heck out of that right hand turn, or the far more frightening baseless assumption of right-of-way before turning left in the face of oncoming traffic.

Once they had the basics down, I exposed them to a higher performance car with a manual trans (1992 BMW 325). The woman-child confirmed my preconceptions: those possessed of complex compound curves, in general, are not inclined towards mechanical sympathy. Despite my considerable instructor skills, and no doubt due to the same lack of motivation as above, she decided that shifting wasn't for her.

The man-child, on the other hand, came to terms with rowing the gears without undue stress on me or the car, while taking rather longer than I expected to be traffic-worthy. Now that he has driven that little rocketship, he views the Soob derisively. (BTW, related to your pictures above, one of the advantages of a manual is intrinsic speed control: if you leave it in the gear denoted by the first digit of the speed limit sign, you will never get a speeding ticket)

Neither of my kids (19 and nearly 17, respectively) has a drivers license yet, just learners permits. AK does not require any professional instruction before getting a license.

I orient all my instruction with what should be the prime directive: your driving must always go unnoticed.

erp said...

Skipper, I'm shocked by your shocking chauvinism!!!

BTW - I just learned that my 14 year old granddaughter will be taking flying lessons this summer and by the following summer will be legally able to fly solo -- yikes!

Bret said...

Well, at least you don't have to teach her to fly!

erp said...

No, but I can get her to teach me.