Ever since my grandmother started teaching me to drive in her 1976 Datsun B-210, I have had a passion for driving. Once I began Driver's Ed in government high school, I was already an accomplished driver. After the Backing and Parallel Parking Lesson, my instructor said I was the best he had ever seen (he never accused me of modesty).
As a teenage driver, having a car meant freedom. Beyond that, driving was just plain FUN. After suffering the indignity of a one-car accident, however, I realized that driving a car was more than just a joy ride; it was a matter of life and death.
One of the inherent dangers of driving is that, with rare exception, you must drive on government roads, which bear all the hallmarks of ineptitude and inefficiency of your average government program: hasty design, sloppy building, shoddy maintenance, cost and schedule overruns.
Once you surmount all those obstacles and deign to drive anywhere, you must be aware of patrolmen who will pull you over on the flimsiest of pretenses: ignoring a do-not-turn-on-red sign even though you can clearly see that not a car is in sight; traveling 45 mph in a 40 mph-zone through light traffic in the middle of a dry, sun-drenched day; or having the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on "Meet the Quota Day."
Even if you can manage to avoid the flashing lights and sirens of your hometown's finest, you also must be wary of all the other drivers whose main qualification for driving is a state-issued license, the procurement of which is only slightly more challenging than convincing Geraldo Rivera to discard his last shred of dignity.
That a compelling case can be made for private roads and driver certification is a subject for another column. Today I want to test your knowledge of surviving your excursions on the government roads of America. Every time you make such a trip, you risk becoming the victim of a bad driver.
Operating a motor vehicle is not a passive activity; it requires more than just steering. Drivers wanted. To be a driver, as opposed to a mere wheel-holder, necessitates a constant application of the IPDE process: Identify – Predict – Decide – Execute.
Take the quiz below to determine if you are an active Driver or a passive Wheel-Holder.
- You approach an intersection and move into the Left Turn Only Lane. The light is green but several cars are oncoming. Your next move is to:
- Stop at the stop line and wait for the next green arrow
- Penetrate the intersection and complete the turn on yellow or red
- Penetrate the intersection. When the light turns yellow, jam the tranny into reverse and back into the car behind you
- You are traveling north on a busy thoroughfare when you decide to execute a U-turn. The only car coming south is in the middle of three lanes. Your next move is to:
- Swing around into the middle lane
- Swing around into the left lane and accelerate to the speed limit as soon as possible
- Wait until the approaching car is 10 feet away. Swing around and slam into the driver's side
- You are cruising along at the speed limit in the left lane of an Interstate. A car approaches behind you 10 mph faster. Your next move is to:
- Stubbornly refuse to move into the right lane, figuring everyone ought to be like you and drive at the speed limit
- Turn on your right blinker, change lanes and allow Speed Racer to continue on his merry way
- Slam on the brakes, cause a rear-ender, and tell the judge the person in the rear is always at fault
- You are sitting at an intersection where the light is red. When it turns green, your next move is to:
- Hit the gas the millisecond the light changes to green. Green means go, right?
- Glance in both directions to make sure no one is running the red light, then proceed through the intersection
- Wait until the cars behind you lay on the horn, then wait another couple seconds, then flip them off
- You are sitting at a T intersection waiting to turn right. A lone car approaches from your left at 50 mph. Your next move is to:
- Turn in front of him even though he must slow to 20 mph to avoid hitting you.
- Wait until he passes, turn in behind him, and explain to your boss why you are 15 seconds late for work
- Turn in front of him at the last moment, causing him to rear-end you. Call your local Ambulance Chaser
- You are the first of many cars on the on-ramp merging onto the Interstate where the speed limit is 75 mph. Your next move is to:
- Heed the government's warning that "speed kills" and merge at 50 mph
- Put petal to metal so that you are traveling at approximately the same speed as the cars with which you will be merging
- Try to merge but panic when it appears the car in the right lane will not let you in. Slam on the brakes and precipitate a 26-car pile-up that earns you a spot on the lead story on the local TV news.
- You are at a stop light when the light turns green. Several pedestrians are crossing in front of you. Your next move is to:
- Approach the cross walk and angrily point to the "Do Not Cross" symbol.
- Wait until the bipeds have crossed the street and continue through the intersection
- Slam into the pedestrians and blame it on the too-hot coffee that just spilled in your lap
- You are waiting to turn left on a four-lane road when the arrow turns green. Other cars are preparing to turn right against the red light. Your next move is to:
- Turn into the outside lane and vent your road rage (verbally) on any poor sap who expects you to maintain your lane
- Stay in the inside lane, allowing those turning right to do so simultaneously and safely
- Swing out into the outside lane and smash into the car turning right against red. If he is not injured from the collision, pull him out of his car and beat him to a bloody pulp
- You are running late for an appointment, but the driver in front of you stubbornly insists on traveling at the speed limit. Your next move is to:
- Tailgate in the hope that he will discern your urgency and speed up
- Maintain a safe following distance and make a mental memorandum to leave a few minutes early next time
- Smash into the car ahead of you, speed away from the scene, and revel in your status as a hit-and-run fugitive
- You are pulled over by a squad car despite doing nothing wrong. Your next move is to:
- Ask the officer, "Was I speeding, sir?"
- Hand him your Ramsell’s Roadside Rights Kit
- Wait until the officer approaches your window, then peel out and pretend you are Luke Duke evading arrest from Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane
Give yourself 2 points for each A, 3 points for each B, and 1 point for each C.
30 points – Congratulations! Like me, you are the best driver in your county. Were all drivers like you, accidents would be exceedingly rare.
25-29 points – Nicely done! You are probably the best driver in your immediate family, but continue to strive for driving perfection.
20-24 points – Not bad! You probably haven't killed anyone while driving, but you're still young. Complacency is dangerous. You can do better.
15- 19 points – When it's your turn to drive the carpool, tell everyone your car is in the shop. If someone asks you for a ride, tell her that your car is in the shop.
11-14 points – Vehicular homicide is a crime. Keep this in mind each and every time you take the wheel. It would be a shame for the market to forego your contributions while you rot in jail for the next 5-10 years.
10 points – You are a menace to society. Sell your car immediately. Use the proceeds for cab and bus fare. If the bus route doesn't stop near your place of work, look for a telecommuting job. If you must drive, you can probably get a job as a local transit authority bus driver or the guy that picks up road kill for the county.
January 3, 2002