A couple of weeks ago at my Writer's Group meeting, two of the women shared that they prided themselves on being really excellent drivers.
Huh? An excellent driver? What does that even mean? I mean, I'm a good driver. Right? I almost never run into anything. None of my passengers ever complain, or are forced to cling in terror and cover their eyes. I always get where I'm going. I'm a great driver.
But both of these women seemed to define "excellent driver" very specifically. Both of them had been taught to drive by someone in their past who taught them things like "precision" and some kind of defensive-driving-type-thing that involved constantly scanning the distance, watching out for possible hazards.
What the what?
Clearly, I am missing something. I didn't learn any of this in Drivers Ed. Well, now that I think about it, I don't think I learned much of anything in Drivers Ed, which was taught by Coach Neptune, my high school's off-season football coach, and I mostly remember just driving around, running his errands - picking up his dry cleaning, dropping a prescription off at the drug store. I really learned to drive on my bff Kaysie's ranch, cruising the massive old farm truck over acres of dirt roads. I mean, the only "precision" driving I learned was how to ford a creek and avoid running into cows.
Could I actually be a...dare I say?...bad driver? I started to think. Hmmmmm...
Over the last couple of weeks, the following events have occurred while I was navigating my trusty Prius around the streets of Los Angeles...
- I accidentally veered into another lane while having an animated conversation with myself.
- I accidentally veered into another lane while shaking my fist and cursing at another car which had veered into my lane.
- I accidentally sat for a prolonged period of time at a stop sign, waiting for it to turn green.
- I accidentally missed the entire cycle of a left turn signal because I was writing a really funny text. Others were trapped behind me, so much honking ensued.
- I accidentally slammed on my brakes so hard that my purse flew to the floor and dumped its prodigious contents all over the place because I was busy trying to figure out the source of a weird smell, and didn't notice that the cars in front of me had already slammed on their brakes. The weird smell source was never discovered.
- While innocently driving home from Jude's swim practice, the car behind me started to honk, then veered around me, and when he drew up alongside, he looked at me and angrily mouthed the word "REALLY??". I have no idea what he was talking about, or what I was doing wrong. I may or may not have been a bit distracted by the iPhone game I was playing while driving.
So you see, I'm beginning to think that perhaps, just maybe, I'm not as excellent a driver as I have been thinking.
I poked around a bit on the ol' internet, and found a website which offers a course on driving, and promises to teach you the following 4 Characteristics of Good Drivers -
- Physical Skills. Okay, I think I've got this one down. I'm a damned good parallel parker anyway. I mean, I may not have the skills of a precision stunt driver or anything, but I'm good enough for rock and roll.
- Coordination - "Drivers must make split-second decisions in reaction to a traffic situation and execute those decisions smoothly." Well...despite the fact that I upended my purse everywhere, I did in fact stop the car before slamming into the car in front of me. So that's something.
- Physical condition. "Good drivers will be aware of their own physical limitations and will compensate appropriately." Well, I almost never drive drunk. So that's good. But I probably could use an eye exam, as I have lost the ability to read signs. I guess that could be a problem. But I don't usually need signs, as I know where I'm going.
- Mental skills and attitudes. "Driving is primarily a thinking task, and is more about good decision making and good risk management." The key elements of this seem to be visual perception, attention/alertness, risk management and avoiding risky behaviors. BINGO! Herein lies my problem!!!
This site offers something called the "Smith System", which is supposed to help drivers develop good visual search habits. I suspect I could use improvement in this area. The 5 steps of the Smith System are as follows...
- Aim high in steering. In other words, don't look just right in front of you, look far ahead so you can analyze traffic conditions and predict what will happen.
- Keep the eyes moving.
- Get the big picture. Look at the whole scene, not just a single aspect.
- Make sure others see you.
- Leave yourself an out. Constantly adjust your position to keep a "space cushion" around your vehicle.
Doesn't this seem like a whole lot of work?! But I think this is what my Writer's Group women were talking about, this whole "paying attention to the world around you" thing.
I have been trying, over the last few days, to implement the Smith System during my drive time, and I have come to the conclusion that I kind of naturally do that stuff anyway. I'm big on the "space cushion" thing - I hate a tailgater.
But all of these "visual search habits" are useless if I'm...not paying attention. Which is what my driving issues seem to boil down to.
Alas, I doubt that this is going to improve anytime soon. I am too much of a multi-tasker. My mind is virtually never really on my driving. It worries me that one of those things that I listed above which I accidentally did, might turn into an actual...accident.
And so, since I don't trust my own ability to get my head in the game, it seems that I'm going to have to rely on prayer. Mommy is always getting things in the mail from the Sacred Heart Auto League. They send out solicitation letters to all old people. Now, I suddenly understand why! I guess that as your mental and physical faculties decrease, that pretty much cuts out 3 of the 4 Characteristics of Good Drivers, leaving you with no options but...prayer.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
My driving companion,
Have mercy on me.
PLEASE check out the other "Drive" Spinners...
Lisa at Mommy's Nest - NEW on FRIDAY!
Ginny Marie at Lemon Drop Pie - NEW on FRIDAY!
Next week on The Spin Cycle...
Here's your chance to vent! What little day to day issues get your shackles up? What sets your teeth on edge? Leaving the cap off the toothpaste? Finding the toilet seat up in the middle of the night? When people don't use a coaster? Baristas that get your coffee order wrong EVERY TIME?
Let it spew! Write your spin on "Pet Peeves". Post it. Let me know. I'll link it here!
Share your spin!
Highlight the code.
Copy to your HTML.
Et voila! Linked!