by Katie Kapro
I’m sorry for stalling at that intersection. Four times. I’m sorry for the jolt when I shifted from fifth to second on the highway. I’m sorry for zipping past those cyclists too fast because I was scared of them like an elephant fears a mouse. Sorry for braking hard at yellow lights and taking turns too fast. I’m sorry.
It’s taken me fifteen years to build up the courage to get behind the wheel. I didn’t take driver’s education in high school – thought my money was better spent on a cello, which maybe it was, but little did I know the struggle it would cause later on. Years of taking the subway, busses, taxis, and cycling took their toll on the part of my being that feels comfortable in the driver’s seat. At first, not driving wasn’t about fear, but over the years that’s what it has become.
When you really think about it, being in control of 3,000lbs of machine is a horrifying power.
There’s taking a turn too fast and flipping over a guardrail. There’s hitting a pothole and swerving into traffic. There’s not seeing a biker in your blind spot and turning into him.
By now you can probably guess that I was never one who needed those gruesome driver’s ed crash videos. My imagination tackles that task well enough. Sadly, that doesn’t make me a good driver … not yet … I’m still constantly making rookie mistakes.
I’m here as a voice for all the new drivers out there. We appreciate your patience more than you know. Thank you for not honking, revving your engines, or aggressively gesturing. We’ve all been at the receiving end of that sort of thing – it’s not helpful. And I promise, with practice we will become better drivers.
Unfortunately, sigh, the signs of a new driver are often the same as the signs of an inebriated or distracted driver. I can go through this How to Spot a Drunk Driver list and tick off 11 of the 15 items just from learning how to drive a manual. Oh boy.
- Quick acceleration or deceleration (Yep.)
- Tailgating (Yes, though I’ve learned better.)
- Weaving or zig-zagging across the road (No, yay!)
- Driving anywhere other than on a road designated for vehicles (Yep.)
- Almost striking an object, curb, or vehicle (Oh yes.)
- Stopping without cause or erratic braking (Mm hmm)
- Drifting in and out of traffic lanes (Ah steering. Yes.)
- Signaling that is inconsistent with driving actions (Yes.)
- Slow response to traffic signals e.g. sudden stop or delayed start (Regularly)
- Straddling the center lane marker (No, yay)
- Driving with headlights off at night (Not yet)
- Swerving (Sure. Guilty.)
- Driving slower than 10 mph below the speed limit (You bet.)
- Turning abruptly or illegally (Sigh. That’s me.)
- Driving into opposing traffic on the wrong side of the road (Nope. Whew.)
Again, we appreciate your patience and we will get better.
New drivers are made hyper-aware of the dangers of distracted driving. You’d better believe my cell phone is in my purse on the backseat while I’m driving down the road white-knuckling that steering wheel.
Recent studies have shown that distracted driving is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than drunk driving. In the US texting accounts for more fatal collisions than drunk driving. A driver’s stopping time is further when they’re texting than when they’re drunk. Crazy.
It is vital that seasoned drivers take distracted driving seriously as well. Just because you’re confident in your skills doesn’t mean everyone around you is. You never know when an inexperienced driver might be beside you, doing all the silly things we do.
Thank goodness we’re not all learning to drive at the same time.