Monday, December 1, 2008

Road Rage - Part 1

I recently returned from a trip to Dallas, Texas with a couple of my girlfriends. Most of my vacations entail me riding my motorcycle, but we flew instead, so I didn't have a car and I wasn't responsible for driving us around. All I can say is, "THANK GOD!" I've driven in a LOT of cities and towns across this country while traveling by motorcycle. I can honestly and wholeheartedly say that Dallas drivers are insane. First, there are so many of them and second, they are not generous. They don't leave enough following space and they nearly refuse to let you onto the freeway.

Unfortunately, I am afraid that this is the direction the drivers of our nation are headed. It seems to me that getting a driver's license isn't all that difficult and, call me old, but I think it should be. It should be taken seriously. A car is a 2 ton lethal weapon in the wrong hands. Over 55,000 people die needlessly on our highways every year. What is it going to take for us to change this statistic?

A recent proposal made by Indiana lawmakers would change the age and other requirements for getting a license in the state of Indiana. ( The proposed law would increase the minimum driving age by 6 months. This would mean that for a person who takes a drivers education class, the minimum driving age would be 16 and 6 months. For a person who has not taken classes, the age would be 17. Many might say that this is age discrimination. Yes, I agree. But there's a reason for that. While 16 and 17-year-old account for the smallest percentage of drivers, they account for the highest accident rate. It's not that they are bad drivers necessarily, it's simply that they are inexperienced. The proposed law would also require at least 50 hours of supervised driving with an instructor or other adult. 10 of those hours would have to be at night. I think that's a brilliant idea. The best way to get that experience that teenagers are lacking is by actually driving in an environment where someone else can fill in the gaps of their knowledge when they need it.

One of the final requirements is that probationary drivers may not use a cell phone (handheld OR handsfree) while in the car until they are 18. My thought? Why even let them do it when they are 18? I don't think anyone should. Generally speaking, there are no conversations that are so dire and pressing that they need to made WHILE driving a car/truck/SUV. By all means, have a phone with you for safety reasons, but keep your eyes (and mind) on the road. Apparently not everyone agrees with me. One of the comments left on the WTHR website was a woman saying that students should be taught how to drive with a cell phone as part of their education because they are going to do it anyway. If that is the rationale, then shouldn't we be teaching how to apply mascara or lipstick while careening down the road at 50 mph? These are behaviors we should be discouraging, not teaching.

Although this legislation is aimed at teenagers, I think all drivers should take a skills or a refresher driver's training course once every 6 years or so. We all tend to slip into bad habits and need to be reminded about the proper way to operate a motor vehicle.

Short of that, my hope is that more drivers will remember (and put into practice) 2 simple behaviors. #1) The 2-second rule. I remember being taught this when I took Driver's Ed MANY moons ago, but apparently it's fallen by the wayside. The rule states that the distance that should be maintained between you and the car in front of you should be no less than 2 seconds worth of space. That means that when you're traveling at 70 mph, there should be MUCH more distance between you and the car in front of you than when you're traveling 35 mph. The best way to test this in practice? Pick a spot on the road or maybe a sign on the side of the road. When the car in front passes that spot, you start counting 1-1000, 2-1000. If you reach that same spot before you've finished counting, you're too close. When the weather is bad or it's night, those 2 seconds should become 3 or 4. #2) Pay attention! I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that if people would stop fiddling with the radio or cell phone or chowing down on their Big Mac and order of fries, at least 90% of accidents could be avoided. What a shame that that one is put into practice so infrequently.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen and amen! I found this to be a very sobering statistic, as many Americans die on American roads annually as all the troops in the entire Vietnam war. And the vast majority of 'em could've avoided it if attention had been paid. Just think about it, how many of all these accidents EVER occur due to mechanical failure NOT RELATED TO LACK OF MAINTENANCE? Few. Very very VERY few. And that leaves only one other cause ... operator error. Either an error that you didn't maintain your vehicle, that you choose to take that drink or that you choose to do ANYTHING other than pay attention to the road, speed and following distances. Sad! Damn, damn sad.

Great blog entry! :-D



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