Driver, Teach Thyself

. May 29, 2015.

In a few months we will have a learning driver in the family.

Thank you for your condolences. It’s a scary thought. The child whose diapers I changed and whose boo-boos I kissed will now be in command of a 2,000-pound rolling machine. What’s even scarier is I, as a parent, am expected to help teach this child how to drive.

We have already started talking about driving, even though she is a few months’ shy of getting her learner’s permit. In our house, the teaching began long before she could reach the pedals. Every time we are in the car together I explain why I am driving the way I am and why the other drivers are doing it wrong. If you think I’m kidding, pay attention next time you are driving anywhere. There are days I’m surprised I make it around town in one piece. Pointing out the faults of others, however, was fine until the day I realized that sometimes I am that other driver.

I don’t do anything truly dangerous or stupid. Sometimes I don’t signal. Sometimes I might go a smidge over the posted speed limit. Come on, you’ve done it, too. Now, however, I am trying to stop those little mistakes and shortcuts. I realize I have eyes on me paying more attention than ever to what I do, not necessarily what I say.

Parallels in parking

When I moved to Ohio 17 years ago, I got a 100 percent on my written test. Thankfully I didn’t have to take a road test. I’m not sure I have ever parallel parked again since my own, prehistoric, road test. In New York at the time, failure to parallel park was an automatic failure. I did it for my road test, and then never again. Now I have to teach her to parallel park. We don’t have a fancy car that helps you do it. Have I mentioned that those driving schools can be worth every penny?

I can, however, give her advice that won’t necessarily be found in the learner’s permit handbook. The biggest? Time is your friend, so give yourself plenty of it. Most mistakes happen when we are rushing. Defensive driving means assuming the other guy has a good chance of doing something stupid that will endanger your life. And if someone tailgates in the hopes of making you go faster than you should, take a deep breath and carry on. They – and you – will live if it takes five more minutes to get there.

While I am supposed to make my teen a better driver, she has also helped me. Brushing up on the rules of the road has, in fact, made me a more conscientious driver. I try to remember to signal even if no one is behind me. I make sure to keep my hands on 10 and 2. And I try to leave a few minutes early so I don’t have to rush. Maybe this old driver can still re-learn a trick or two.