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Driving Lessons

by Ron Kitson

This is not about golf by the way, although my all-time favorite bumper sticker read, "If you think I drive bad, you should see me putt."

This rather is about safe, courteous driving of motor vehicles and while we must all admit to the fact that one day we will have to give it up, senior citizens are not the big problem on our roads. I don't base this on any official data, just on what I have observed.

While we seldom compliment skilled, courteous drivers, we can sure get irritated or indeed injured by the large number of careless and less courteous.

The ones who probably irritate me the most are the ones waiting to pull into my lane from a side street or driveway. They're not waiting for me to pass, they are just waiting for me to get really close so they can pull out in front of me.

And how about the ones who pull into the left lane before making a right turn into a driveway. They need to take some lessons. And then there are the ones who apparently don't have any reverse gear. You start pulling into a parking space and meet someone coming through from the other side. You're not supposed to cross that solid line Pal.

And speaking of solid lines, there is a big wide solid line at intersections where you are to stop for a red light. You are to stay behind that so as not to interfere with pedestrians for one thing. And, if you're in the left or left-turn lane, you have to allow room for traffic, long vehicles in particular, turning onto your street and needing to get around you.

How many times do you see people having to back up to make room for a turning truck or bus? Then they pull back up again often with their entire vehicle past that wide white line they are supposed to be behind. They used to issue tickets for that. They called it "Entering an intersection on a red light." They need lessons too.

Among the more dangerous are the drivers who don't understand that the amber light means "Slow Down" the light is turning red. They think it means "Step-On-It" and often the light turns red before, or as they enter the intersection. They could kill someone and sure need to take some lessons.

I'm not sure why we need to signal once we're in a "left or right-turn only" lane but some people don't signal at all. Ever sit at an intersection waiting to pull out into heavy traffic and someone coming from your left, turns into your street without signaling? Hey man, I could have made it out of here if I'd known you were turning. Needs lessons.

You've all seen the weavers who zigzag from lane to lane hoping to get to where they're going a minute sooner. You leave a little buffer zone between you and the vehicle ahead and someone always pulls into it.

I'm not sure why we're always in a hurry when we're driving. We sit around reading the morning paper and enjoying that fresh brewed coffee until the latest possible second then rush out to the car and zoom away. This is when you hit all the red lights and get behind someone driving 25 miles an hour. For Pete's sake, leave a few minutes earlier and relax. And why do we have to set a new time record on a long trip?

We were driving down to Florida a few years ago to spend Christmas with my parents and ran into a freak snowstorm in Georgia. Not much snow on the road at first, we still had good traction and traffic was moving slowly. However, everywhere you looked, you saw cars in the ditch. Why? No idea.

By the time we reached Jacksonville, all the bridges were closed due to the slippery road surface, so they took us all off the interstate and parked us on the streets of down town Jacksonville where we sat for hours with no restrooms (and no trees).

In a state made up almost entirely of sand, they didn't have any to put on the bridges and of course, no salt. Not sure where they found it but eventually they came with a mix of sand and sod and we made it over. Some drivers started slipping on those steep bridges and put the peddle to the metal and likely didn't get over the bridge until the weather warmed up. They could use some lessons.

Driving over snow and ice is very tricky but do we train and test new drivers under these dangerous conditions? Not that I know of.

Back in 1956 I was on leave from the Air Force prior to going to Europe, when I decided to go out to Winnipeg to visit my sister. She had worked for a trucking company back home that delivered GM cars and arranged a convenient ride for me all the way to Winnipeg.

You talk about road stories, that guy never stopped talking about his many years as a truck driver. One story that stuck with me was about a county sheriff's deputy somewhere in Wisconsin or Minnesota who, with his lights off, liked to come up behind the semi rigs at night and follow them until they headed down this steep hill. Truckers like to get a little extra "Giddyup" on the downhill to help make it up the next.

Well, it seems this "Bear" nailed a lot of truckers on that hill and you'd better believe it, it was the topic of conversation at a nearby truck stop and they decided what they should do about him. What they did was they put an extra driver on a car hauler and put him in a car facing out the back end of the trailer and when this sly deputy got up real close, the guy in that back car pulled on the high-beams.

Our interstate highways are full much of the time and I'm amazed at how few accidents there are. The fact is, there are a lot of good drivers out there. But, there are always some who could really use some lessons.

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