by Gregory E. Zschomler
When I was a teen driver I wrecked a few cars. I really wasn’t a good driver. It’s not that I was a speed demon or law breaker; I just wasn’t attentive to my surroundings. My Dad, who had a way with words, said I drove “with my head up my butt.” As I look back I now know, at sixteen, I had no business being on the road. I lacked responsibility and thought little of my vulnerability—or of others.
This is why, as the father of eight children (only the last two of which are learning to drive now), I discouraged my offspring from driving when so young. That, and the expense of pre-teen driving schools (literally highway robbery). I know, I know. Some of you feel it’s unfair that I should impose that upon my kids based upon how I drove. You may be right, but, so far, I’ve not steered my children wrong.
At eighteen, they were all more ready, more responsible and more safety-minded. But this isn’t about when or when not to allow adolescents behind the wheel. Some can be quite ready at an early age (especially those who’ve driven tractors for years on a farm), while some people should never be on the road (we all know about those). Rather, this article is about what makes a good driver (regardless of age).
The mechanics of operating a vehicle just take practice—the more practice, the better—but that’s not all there is to it. I believe there are three other important components to driving, and understanding these three keys is what will earn you the keys in our household.
I call them Driving’s Three Cs. They are:
Careful means that you mind your actions while on the road. It’s making sure you drive with care and according to the law and signage. It’s slowing down in inclement weather. It’s keeping the proper distance between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. It’s taking corners at safe speeds. And it’s using your turn signals; braking, backing and maneuvering with attention.
In other words, it’s minding your Ps and Qs. It’s about you and your responsibility. Like they say in Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.” And that means being careful with your two-ton vehicle (or four-ounce smart car) while in the driver’s seat.
Cautious is something altogether different from careful. While careful is based upon what you do, as a driver; cautious is based upon what other drivers do. In other words, it means “watching out for the other guy.” I don’t have to tell you that there are crazy, stupid, distracted and jerky people out there. I was one of them (maybe I still am). The point is that you must steer clear of them whenever possible. [And please don’t be one of them.]
Never assume other drivers will do the right, logical or even telegraphed thing. People don’t always stop at red lights and stop signs. People don’t always turn as indicated by their signal. People aren’t always aware that they share the road—or a myriad of other things we expect from reasonable people. The fact is not everyone is reasonable, so make allowances for their errors. Use caution.
Common courtesy is becoming something we’ve forgotten in society—and not just on the road. Courtesy isn’t so common anymore and that’s a real shame. We could treat each other better and we should. There’s that “golden rule” and all.
Why not stop at a cross walk and let a pedestrian cross? It takes only a few seconds and gives that person a feeling like someone out there values their safety.
We all hate it when someone tailgates us or cuts us off. We hate it when people fail to use their turn signals or travel slowly in the fast lane (especially big rigs). And who doesn’t hate it when people won’t let you in? Get it?
Being nice is not only right it sets an example for others to learn from and follow. If you want the world to be a better place it needs to start with you.
Careful, Cautious, Courteous. It’s pretty simple.