Thursday, May 08, 2008

What Happened to Driver's Education?

I'm becoming more concerned with the state of driving on the roads of New Jersey every day. I have a decent commute to and from work daily, and it has given me the chance to witness the deterioration of other peoples driving skills first hand. I am by no means claiming to be a professional driver or insinuating that I have some advanced schooling in the driving arts. I am only voicing the opinion that perhaps, just perhaps, we need to make driving school mandatory and require licensed drivers to take a driving test again later in life. I am also slightly inclined to recommend a raise in the legal driving age, but we'll get to that later. Driving is the culmination of maneuvering, guiding, or steering the progress of a vehicle for the purpose of getting from point A to point B. At an older age (or before a certain age) your reflexes, decision making, and accuracy are dulled to the point of regression. How is it possible to still operate a moving vehicle with the skill needed to do so without causing harm to others? Case in point: The driver of a late model Buick going 29mph in a 50mph zone with 10-15 cars stuck behind them. Why does this happen? Does the driver not notice the speed limit sign? Do they fear a higher speed will cause them to crash or lose control of the vehicle? Do they not notice the extremely long line of cars behind them virtually begging for a passing lane? Some of you will say, "But what are they supposed to do?" I don't have a clear cut answer to that, but my 1st suggestion would be to pull over and let the other cars go by. It leads me back to the initial idea of retesting drivers. Would you get your license in the 1st place if you couldn't successfully maneuver an onramp? I'm sure you have been behind someone who decides at the last minute that instead of merging into traffic they want to slam on their breaks and wait until there is a huge opening for them to merge with. Why should anyone get amnesty just because they passed their driving test 40 or 50 years ago? The bottom line is if you can't drive safely and drive well then you shouldn't be licensed to drive. It would cut down on the amount of accidents as well as some traffic problems. (Ed. Note – That's an opinion, I don't have any scientific evidence to back that up or anything)

I hear the naysayers now, "But how will these people get from place to place?" How about public transportation? I'm sure that if our government put their power to use for something beneficial for the people than a good solution could be created. I am not insinuating that the only problems are older drivers either. There are plenty of just plain old ass holes on the road as well. I'm sure you have all met these people who are under the impression that they are way more important than you, and that they have the right to do anything they need to just to get where they are going (And where they are going is WAY more important than where you are going). We've all been on a road where 2 lanes merge into 1. You look in your rearview mirror and here they come, the ass holes. They are speeding up faster into the merging lane just for that chance to be able to sit in the bumper to bumper traffic a few spaces in front of you. What's the point? If more people would use some common sense and be a little polite on the road you'd see the traffic jams less severe. If the traffic is merging from three lanes into two, and you decide that going all the way down into the main traffic area to join the great merge is the way to go, then you are an idiot. All you are doing is making the traffic worse as well as causing countless other drivers to sit longer. So that in turn makes you an ass hole. Perhaps you don't want to sit behind all the other people who want to be home just as badly as you do. Perhaps you have to pee so much that your bladder is going to explode. Or perhaps you are just rude and inconsiderate. These are the same ass holes who like to flow in and out of traffic with no turn signals. If you pull into my lane and cut me off well then sure I am going to be pissed off at you when you don't signal that you are going to do it. Are you under some impression that people are going to move for you no matter what dumb move you make at 75mph? Turn signals are not only a safe way to let other drivers know what you are doing but they also help other drivers make good decisions based on what you are doing. When I am trying to turn onto a road and you are traveling with the flow of traffic and then turn into where I am with no signal do you realize that you just made it harder for me to get onto the road? I could have turned out while you were slowing down and perhaps not been stuck there waiting for another opening, but no, instead I am still sitting there because you again were rude and inconsiderate towards your fellow driver. I think that the DMV should create a new ticket and law, the ass hole. This way when any accident occurs due to you being an ass hole you get an automatic 5 points and lose your license for up to 90 days. Plus you have to wear a huge scarlet 'A' on your shirt for no less than one year.

Now anyone who knows me knows that I am, at times, also guilty of many offenses while driving. My road rage tends to get the best of me on numerous occasions. Nothing is more annoying than the car in the left lane going slower than all the other traffic. If you are in the left lane and not passing the car next to you then you need to move over. There is no need to be in the left lane if you are enjoying your leisurely drive. NJ State law states that you must keep right except to pass. There is never any reason to ride neck and neck with another car on a freeway. You can easily merge behind them and continue the exact same speed. The left lane is for faster traffic, the right lane is for slower moving traffic. This is another rule learned, yet seemingly forgotten, from Driver's Education. Another pet peeve is drivers who see the light ahead preparing to turn yellow, not yet turning yellow, and choose to slow down. If the light is green, there are no cars in front of you, and you step on the break, chances are the car behind you is going to be pissed. I know I don't want to sit at the light just because the guy in front of me slowed down (and usually ends up running the late yellow, early red light anyway). It seems like now whenever anyone gets behind the wheel of a vehicle they tune out the world around them. No longer can you see other cars or other drivers, you only see your destination and other things in your path to arrival. If you'd take two seconds to look around, or perhaps anticipate what someone else is going to do based on the traffic pattern, you'd probably hear less people beeping at you.

Now let's touch briefly on raising the driving age for a second before I go on my final rant about why I hate other drivers. You have to be 21 to drink, 18 to vote, and 18 to buy cigarettes. You have to 25 to rent a car, 18 to see an 'R' rated movie, and are considered a teenager until you hit 20. I am not against training teens to drive at 17, but I am against licensing them at 18. I was 18 before (although a decade or so ago) and I remember what it was like back then. I was confused, still finding out who I was in life, and I had no place driving. You just don't make rational decisions when you are that young. You are too busy being a tough guy or trying to impress the tough guys. Common sense and experience is not something you have an abundance of at that age. If we were to extend the training period for 8 months to a year and require teens to log real time behind the wheel with an instructor we might find that the level of driving skills may increase across the board. I also agree with stricter penalties for younger drivers. If you cause and accident based on your negligence or disregard for other drivers then I think you should lose your license and be forced to do another driver training course before having it reinstated. This might encourage the youth to spend less time looking cool and more time understanding that driving is a privilege that you must take seriously for yourself and the well being of others.

I have discovered that I could go on and on with things that are annoying about other drivers but I don't have the time to keep going and I'm sure that by now you've gotten the point. If you have experienced any of these people on the road then you know what I'm talking about. There are many kinds of people on the road with you. Everyone is driving somewhere they need to get to, just like you. If we all took just an extra second to consider other drivers we would have a safer roadway. But since I'm sure that is asking way too much, I will accept not driving slow in the left lane, at least maintaining the speed limit on one lane roads, and using your turn signals. I'm not asking you to change everything about the way you drive, just to consider why you are doing what you do. I want to get home as fast as I can, and I do tend to drive faster than the normal driver (ask my wife), but I still drive safely and courteously. When was the last time you stopped to let someone merge into traffic in front of you? Do one good driving deed a day and hope that it comes back to you. And if that doesn't work, lay on the horn!! That's what it was made for.

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