Saturday, May 14, 2011

Speaking of driving…

Years ago in Bay Shore, before it got over-developed and over-populated, it was fun to do donuts in the mall parking lot or at the Jr. High, when it snowed. I remember going with my Dad to the mall doing spin outs and screaming and laughing with fear and excitement. 

I got my permit when I was 16. My Dad had the papers waiting for me when I got home from school that day.  It was against my mother’s wishes, but I was the only son my father had.  My practice usually came from me being the designated driver. My grandfather (Dad’s Dad), lived on Brook Avenue on the Southside of Sunrise Hwy. We lived on the Northside of Sunrise behind the Jr. High. We would go to Pop Pop’s house, Daddy would get crocked… and I got to drive home. 

It had snowed a few weeks before my road test and Daddy thought it was the appropriate time to teach me how to drive in the snow. We took his car (he always had a hunk a junk) and went to the Jr. High parking lot.  The snow hadn’t been plowed yet and there was ice under the new snow from a previous storm. Daddy made me put on my seat belt, floor it, then jam on the brakes. The lesson that was supposed to be taught was how to “react” to what the car would do under those conditions. We did it for about an hour and tried different scenarios like turning while braking, driving out of a skid and then we got to do donuts – as the finale.

Nothing replaces experience. Having a good teacher (my Dad) helped me understand the road, how to drive defensively and practicing under different conditions (weather, traffic, time of day). It gave me confidence to be a good driver (and borrowing the car – without permission - from time to time helped too!). I learned that a car should be treated with respect, but not feared.

NY’ers get a bum rap on a lot of things. Driving is one of them. I have lived in 5 states and have traveled up and down I-95 and as far west as Vegas… NY’ers CAN drive, it’s the rest of the nation that can’t.  NY’ers understand things like the far left lane is the fast lane, what a merge lane is used for and that you don’t have to plan for, schedule and send a memo - to make a right turn (you just do it – from as far right as you can get off the roadway, so you don’t interrupt traffic flow).

We also know that when you are on an expressway (parkway, interstate, etc) – there are no STOP lights for a reason – the idea is to GO! There is no need to tap your brakes when you are cruising in the left lane because someone in the far right lane put on their blinker to get off on an exit ramp.  We don’t have to look at people picking up trash on the highway. We don’t have to slow down because someone is trying to merge into traffic – it’s called the “right of way” for a reason. If you’re driving and have the “right of way” the merge lane was developed so people trying to enter the traffic lane can adjust their speed and fall in line (and maintain the flow of traffic).

People develop road rage because of individuals that took a road test around cones.  The testing instructor didn’t actually make them get into traffic, parallel park with cars coming in both directions in a space that’s big enough for a Chevette (but you brought Daddy’s Caddie to the road test) or had to make a right hand turn around a snow bank that jutted into the driving lane.  If people had to take a road test, like they do in NY, the roadways would be clear of idiots that are only able to drive when there are no other cars around them.


Challenge #2: If someone cuts me off while I’m driving an 80,000 pound vehicle – will I be able to resist the urge and possess any remorse if I just run them over with the truck?

I think as part of my trucker in training curriculum, I’ll need to add in road rage anger management. I know I have boasted and bragged about the fact that I don’t have a “better than” attitude, but when it comes to driving there is some common sense involved – and more often than not, people earned their license – not based on their ability to make a split second decision, but because they were able to navigate past an orange cone without knocking it over.      

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