People Who Shouldn't Be Driving? Taking the Easy Way Out?
by Marilyn Mackenzie
I read something in our local newspaper the other day that really bugged me.
There are two locations here where a driver can go to be tested to get a driver's license. Driving instructors suggest that people go to one rather than the other because that one passes people more than the other.
Okay, that bugged me a little bit - enough to read on. Then I really got angry.
The location that passes more people is located in an area where there are 25 mph residential streets. They take people through those residential streets and the driving experience is anxiety free and most people pass the test.
The location that fails more people is located in an area that is more congested and has roads and streets with commercial activity, more traffic, and higher speed limits.
Isn't there something wrong with this picture? Driving instructors are encouraging people to take the easy test, knowing that they probably will fail the more difficult one? Doesn't that mean that maybe, just maybe, they're not ready to be on the more congested streets with higher speed limits?
When I was a teen, I took driver's education classes in the summer, as did most teens if they used the public school system instead of private instruction. When we finished, there were also two locations where we could be tested. They were different, but they failed people equally. In fact, back then, most people failed their driver's test at least once. And I knew some who failed 3 or 4 times. (And one who flunked 8 times.)
Where I lived, one driver's test location was a driving course. It was set up to look like real streets. We had to stop at stop signs, do 3-point turn-arounds, park, and at the very end of the test, there was a long stretch of road where one had to get the car up to 50 mph, then come to a stop as quickly as you could.
The other driver's test area actually took you onto streets with various speeds and stop lights and stop signs.
Both testing areas were manned by state police who intimidated new drivers by wearing their full gear while they graded your performance. They had the knee-high boots, guns in their holster, and those weird helmet hats on. Just having a cop in your car watching you was enough to make some fail from the get-go.
On my first attempt, I failed - because the tester (cop) said that I didn't stop long enough at the first stop sign. I'm sure that I did, because my driving instructor taught us to count "one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three..." But I didn't mind that I flunked. Frankly, I knew that I was not ready to drive.
It turned out that I was right in my assumption. Although I had four punk boys in the back seat while I learned to drive, and learned to tune out their distraction, I didn't practice having a car of teen boys behind me in a car. The first time I was out driving on my own as a licensed driver, a car full of boys (and back then with no seat belt laws, a car full of boys could have meant 6 or 8 in a regular sized car...and there were!) got on my bumper and beeped and waved and actually bumped my car when I stopped at a stop sign. Because of them, I ended up hitting a parked city bus. (And I discovered that a bus crumples pretty easily, even when the only damage to the car hitting it is a broken head light. And that bus drivers are pretty cool dudes, or that one was. He tore up my information when he learned that it was the first day on the road by myself.)
Anyway, back to today's situation, it bothered me that the driver's instructors are suggesting that new drivers take the easy way out and go to a location that rarely fails anyone. I've lived in this area for five years now, and one of the biggest complaints I have about drivers of all ages is that they cross the yellow lines more than in any area I've lived (which includes 6 states and more than twice that many cities and towns). Perhaps they need to be flunking more drivers so they can practice more before being put on the road.
I think I needed more practice. Or more confidence. Today's kids seem to have no problem in the confidence area. Shoot, they think that they can leave the driver's testing area with a new license and then text their friends to tell them so - while driving.