Practice makes perfect right? There is usually a positive correlation between the number of times you do something and your ability to do it. Driving seems to not follow this rule. Like dancing or listening, it seems to be something you are either good at or not. Practice may help, but if you are one of those bad drivers I see on the road every day, you are never going to be good at it, no matter how many hours you spend behind the wheel. You may become barely competent at best. Taxi drivers are a pretty good example of this theory. They spend more hours behind the wheel than they do on their feet in any given day and they still get as many middle fingers directed at them as Jane Fonda at a Veteran’s Day parade.
I remember taking a driver’s education class before getting my license as a teenager. I took a week long class about two weeks before obtaining my license and I literally drove the instructor’s vehicle for less than ten minutes in that week. I did, however, drive myself to the class daily since it was in the summer, my parents weren’t home and the car I was getting for my upcoming birthday was already parked in our garage. I was a rule breaker from birth, so this didn’t seem like a particularly bad thing to do. In my fifteen year old mind driving without a license was less of a crime than inconveniencing a family member or neighbor by asking them for a ride.
When the instructor asked me how much experience I had driving I said “a little”. Having no point of reference, it seemed like an acceptable answer. I had been riding a motorcycle since I could hold it up by myself and logged as many hours riding as a long-haul trucker full of adderal. I had also been appointed the designated driver at the age of eight on a trip to Canada with the Indian Princesses. This sounds bad until you know that we pulled into a gas station and a nine year old was behind the wheel of another car. Okay, I guess it still sounds bad. Regardless, I thought everyone had the same amount of experience as I did. I was mistaken.
I spent three of the five days in class sitting in the backseat praying that I didn’t die because the fifteen year old in the front seat couldn’t simultaneously keep her hands at ten and two and her foot on the gas peddle. I quit turning to look out the back window after awhile, fully expecting to get flattened by a semi because little Suzy couldn’t get our car up to the speed limit in the football field length of space she had on the freeway entrance ramp. A sat, silently praying that the gas peddle and steering wheel would receive some kind of divine intervention. Somehow, by the end of the week, everyone was sent on their way to the Secretary of State with a certificate of completion.
I was behind a student driver last week that made little Suzy look like a race care driver. She was holding onto the wheel so tightly I could see her knuckles bulging from the side mirror as she attempted to make a right turn. I tried not to laugh as her back tire took the curb on the way around the bend. My amusement turned to concern as I saw a line of vehicles behind her attempting to pass as she drove down the center of two lanes. I think I even saw an old lady with a walker flip her a middle finger as she walked past. This girl was a hazard on the road, barely moving. I felt like I was watching the slow speed police chase led by OJ Simpson.
Unfortunately, I have seen many middle aged people driving the exact same way – people who should have years of driving experience. I watched a fifty year old man drive a mile through my neighborhood with two wheels completely on the curb. I don’t know if it was his first time driving or if he was one of the people who would just never quite get the hang of driving. All I know is I had to slow down to avoid the spray of dust behind him and I watched people walking their dog pull back onto the grass to avoid the cloud coming at them. My seven year old giggled from the back seat asking “what in the world is that guy doing?” Even at her young age she knows when she sees a bad driver and she is not afraid to point them out. She has certainly heard enough backseat driving coming from the front seat!
If there is a good driving gene, I guess my daughter has a 50/50 shot of getting it. Although my husband and I have both spent countless hours behind the wheel, only one of us is really good at it. Just in case it is a skill that will develop with practice, we have put her behind the wheel already. She sits on my husband’s lap and drives around empty parking lots. I’m happy to say she is doing better than at least 60% of the drivers I see on the road. I know driver’s education classes are still a long time away but I am already contemplating where I will hide the car keys. After all, she is my kid.