People Can't Drive!

By David Freiburger
Car Craft Magazine, April 1998, Pg 7

I'm against nearly anything that increases government regulation. But here's one glaring exception: It's way, way too easy to get a drivers licensee. I've driven in 27 states and have come to the conclusion that seven out of 10 people can't be trusted with anything motorized. Most people can't drive.

Let me get the shameful stuff out of the way: I rarely use turn signals, I'll occasionally stall a car with a manual trans, I'm not as smooth on a road course as I'd like to be, and my drag strip reaction time can be clocked with a calendar. So I'm not the greatest driver. However, life as a gearhead has armed me with skills that make me feel justified in my prejudice against the average highway drone. Think about it! Gearheads aren't inclined to jag in front of other idiots without warning--our cars are too precious. Merging onto the freeway is apparently a skill mastered by few; if you see someone handle it without a three lane pileup, there's a good chance that driver is a car guy. Gearheads know how to tow a trailer, how to spot dangerous traffic situations, and how to pull out of a parking space without getting bashed. I guarantee you'll never see a hot rod stopped in the middle of traffic lanes because it has a flat tire. Performance driving skills help cars get stopped faster and help you drive through oversteer and understeer. That means more safety in inclement weather, and if we do get stuck, we can handle the situation without a AAA card.

Also, I'm convinced that mechanical aptitude helps you drive. How else do you learn how to shift gears after the clutch linkage falls off? It only takes three or four purchases of barley road worthy vehicles to learn hoe to compensate for loose steering, minimal brakes, and engines running on five cylinders. Knowing the difference between bad noises and BAD noises is an invaluable skill. And if a junker ever hit the point of no return, gearheads know how to fix stuff at the side of the road or get home anyway. I can't count the times that my father has rescued me with the station wagon and a tow chain. Illegal, but practical in the hands of a skilled car guy.

I'm not advocating that you shouldn't get a license unless you're a car enthusiast, but I am asking for people to hold themselves responsible for actions behind the wheel. The way that I see it, stepping on the gas when you meant to hit the brakes isn't "unintended acceleration"--nor does it give you the right to sue a car manufacturer. Neither does your inability to distinguish "R" from "P" on a shifter.

I'm also asking for more stringent licensing requirements. On my first day of drivers Ed they asked for a show of hands from people who felt that they already knew how to drive. I raised my hand , was shuffled out of the classroom and behind the wheel of a rubber-floor-matted Aspen, passed the driving test, and was handed my permit. I guess it worked for me. It hasn't for the masses. It really wouldn't bother me if every driver had to pass an advanced evasive skills test in a car with a manual trans and no ABS. But I'd be happy if they'd even teach people how to parallel park without blocking traffic. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and people should even have to pay for proper training.

Radical? Yup. But consider the savings. This program would instantly reduce the overall number of drivers, not to mention the number of ignorant drivers. The result would be less traffic, fewer accidents, and a reduction in pollution. Insurance premiums? Down. Government-mandated safety regulations on new cars would drop, so pricing inflation would be slowed. Drunk-driving deaths would decline. And even court costs and the plugged-up legal system would be alleviated.

Don't buy it? OK. But I guarantee you'll think of me the next time you get nerfed into the center divider by some 45-mph-on-the-highway slacker with an eyelash curler stuck to their face.

Driver's Ed

By Cole Quinnell
4Wheel & Off-Road, June 1998, Pg. 8

The last few years of so-called improvements in new trucks concerns me. Everything is tailored to a less qualified driver. I'll say it right now--I'm not against safe vehicles. However, I think that the driver should be just as safety-equipped as the truck.

Let me explain what I mean. First off, ABS was designed because the average driver has no idea what threshold braking means, let alone the ability to perform it in a panic situation. And don't get me started on how well some ABSs works off-road.

And what's with having to put your foot on the brake to pull the shifter out of park? That's in vehicles because some people were mashing the throttle instead of the brake because they couldn't tell the difference between the two pedals. Is this a person you want driving next to you? Now they can, because they figured out in the driveway which pedal is which, but there's no guarantee that they'll guess right in traffic while they're on the phone, writing down notes, putting on makeup, switching CDs, reading, eating--ah yes, I love my fellow commuters.

Now we have traction control coming of age, which backs off the throttle (despite the driver pushing it down) when wheelspin occurs. For on road purposes, this keeps less-experienced drivers from spinning out on ice and other slick surfaces. The new corvette has an optional active-handling system that uses sensors to read steering inputs, vehicle yaw rate, and lateral G-force and uses the vehicles brakes to help stabilize the car in emergency maneuvers. That's an impressive system, but what are we doing to increase the technology of the driver as well?

What I'm suggesting is that the current generation of drivers is underqualified in general and need much better education and stricter testing before being allowed on the roadways. Obviously, that's a broad statement, and I'd be willing to bet that most off-roaders are better drivers than average.

Only 20 or 30 years ago, a great number a drivers learned how to drive on the farm at the helm of a John Deere. Hell, the controls on these weren't even labeled, let alone over-laden with safety equipment and warnings. And the first time that you buried the thing or put it on it's side, you learned to respect physics and think about possible consequences of your driving actions. We don't have that now.

So I propose that driver's ed should entail quite a bit more than it currently does. First, a perfect score should be required to pass the written test. A comedian once made light of the fact that a person can be ignorant of what to do at a stop sign or not recognize a school crossing sign and still score a 90 percent or better on the test. That's not funny. Next, there should be a mandatory car instruction that's very similar to many advanced driving schools and racing schools in the country--in fact, I'll list two that I'm familiar with at the end of this editorial. These schools teach vehicle control in a variety of conditions and how to handle the car. They go way beyond distinguishing the brake pedal from the accelerator, and they teach you what to do when you hit water in a corner and the rear starts to come around. Now that's traction control.

The bottom line is that I think that people need to be better educated before they're trusted with 4,000 pounds of steel and should take responsibility for their driving actions, not force manufacturers to overbuild expensive safety features into next years model.

Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving
Dept. 4WOR
P.O. Box 51980
Phoenix, AZ 85076

Bragg-Smith Advanced Driving School
Dept. 4WOR
6000 N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89115

Rage and Responsibility

Denis Fraser
Oconomowoc, Wi
Bicycling, July 1998, Pg. 14

I read "Road Rage" (May) and felt I had something to offer. I'm a resident alien (from Australia)and a cyclist when the Wisconsin weather allows. I'm also a civil engineer with a background in road construction. As I see it, American motorists are so full of their rights that there doesn't seem to be any room for their responsibilities. I recently spoke to a policeman and he said that he's heard people in court assert that it's their constitutional right to be happy to drive a car. But driving is not a right, it's a privilege. Put simply road rage begins where courtesy ends.

Views From Visitors of This Page

Bruce -
Tuesday, December 29, 1998 3:57 PM

Oh that is so great the worst part is it is TRUE. I have thought about becoming a polition to push for things like this, or an author to write a book to speak out!! Not sure but the US has to do something to change this huge moron licencing problem!!!!

Andrew H. -
Sunday, January 31, 1999 8:52 PM

I agree with you. I am 16 and I know I am no great driver, but I am better than some people I have been around. For example, I have been riding with one friend and he has almost caused two wrecks. They would have been most definitely his fault, no doubt.

There is a median with trees and a fountain in town close to me with two lanes of traffic on both sides. My friend pulls out and instead of crossing to the right side of the road, turns strait out and heads down the wrong side of the median! A Chevy Caprice swerved into the other lane narrowly missing running head on with the little S-10. The boy never realized anything was wrong until I screamed it in his ear. He failed to yield when turning across a fairly busy intersection and I saw a close up of the grill of a Dodge Dakota pickup. He needs to re take driver's ed again and again for good measure. I can drive pretty good, but I could use a driving course, like you talked about. This would increase the price of recieving a license, but looking at the good side, I don't see much of a problem. Even though I am a broke 16 year old driver I support your idea 100%.

Andrew H.

Gregg Shaff -
Sunday, September 19, 1999 12:39 PM

Kuddos to the article. You don't know how often I've driven and found myself royally 'nerfed' by some moron doing 45mph in the fastlane! I've driven extensively in CA and now in FL and the drivers are no different. People in CA drive erradically and, in FL, they just can't drive at all! People need to learn that a car is not just a convenience. People need to learn that a car is a several-thousand-pound MECHANICAL device. That when one of them is driving very poorly, it becomes a deadly piece of equipment. Being a Mechanical Engineer, I know something about momentum and mechanics and the like, and cars are as deadly, if not deadlier, than the outlawed 'gun'. Instead of outlawing a nice rifle or pistol, why doesn't Congress outlaw idiot drivers? Haven't people seen enough car wrecks on the side of the road (and I know people have because anytime there is a wreck, everyone stops to look!) to learn to be safer with their cars? That doesn't mean driving slower, either. It means that people need to know their cars and they need to flow WITH traffic rather than cringe from it. When you get on a freeway, speed up. When you change lanes, wait until I pass you because there is absolutely no one behind me and you are going 15 mph slower than me. It's called situational awareness. People really need to pay attention to what is surroundingthem, in ALL directions, when they drive.

off the soapbox
Thunder-chicken owner (V6 thunderbird)

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