Manitoba·Opinion

Nut behind the wheel: Other drivers provide examples to my sons — of what NOT to do

All three of my sons are now learning to drive, and I'll tell you, it's given a whole new meaning to the phrase "thrill of the open road."

Poor driving seems to be commonplace, and it scares me, Jo Davies writes

Never mind white knuckles — the way other people drive could make a young driver's parent's hair go white. (Associated Press)

All three of my sons are now learning to drive, and I'll tell you, it's given a whole new meaning to the phrase "thrill of the open road."

Teaching them to drive is not awful, but it's definitely not a day at the spa — and it's not their driving that's my biggest fear.

It's complicated by the fact that all three are completely different in their approach to driving.

One is cautious, yet matter-of-fact; one is proficient but loves speed; and the last would rather have bamboo shoots shoved under his fingernails than get behind the wheel. Because of this, I have to adjust the way I teach them what they need to know.  

What's even more challenging is trying to explain the examples of absolutely horrendous driving we see every single time we go out to practice. Besides giving them a running account of their driving and pointing out things to which they need to pay attention, I spend most of my time telling the boys to ignore what they're seeing licensed (at least, I assume they're licensed) drivers doing.

Gone are the days when it was rare to see people who obviously had no clue what they were doing (i.e. going the wrong way down a one-way street, or failing to yield).

Now poor driving seems to be commonplace, and it scares me.

People are out there driving like they just started yesterday. Things like speeding, tailgating, failing to signal and (my biggest pet peeve) sitting in the passing lane forever, like there isn't another soul on the road who needs to get anywhere, are now commonplace.

(On the way back from Bird's Hill beach yesterday, we watched a sedan travelling in the passing lane for about five kilometres until a Ford F150 sat behind it long enough to make its point:  get out of the passing lane.)

Yes, it's a gong show out there, and I'm not entirely sure why. 

It's super frustrating, as well as confusing for my sons. Rather than being able to use the behaviours of other, presumably more experienced adult drivers as a positive example, I have to use them as cautionary tales.

From rolling stops to running red lights to generally being rude on the road, we've seen it all. 

My two younger sons took driver's education through their high school. I'm grateful to Manitoba Public Insurance for providing that program to high school students. For only $50, students get 34 hours of classroom instruction, plus 16 hours of in-car instruction from a professional driving instructor.

I only wish that all drivers were able to access this program. I'm convinced it would help to eliminate some of the bad driving out there, including mine. 

Drivers like me who obtained their licences decades ago likely would benefit from a refresher course

I don't exempt myself from this situation.

I'm well aware that drivers like me who obtained their licences decades ago likely would benefit from a refresher course, even if it's only to break bad habits we've formed since.

Senior drivers like my 83-year-old mother have another set of challenges altogether, in the form of delayed reaction times, as well as aural and/or visual limitations. Perhaps the refresher courses plus an assessment of driving fitness to see if they are still safe to drive might eliminate some accidents.

Those who are new to the Canadian driving system and used to their home countries' rules of the road would benefit as well. A friend of mine from Colombia used to ignore four-way stops because back home, "no one pays attention to them," she told me. 

Driver's ed would make it extra clear what is expected here. 

I realize there would be a significant cost to including these other groups in driver's ed. However, I think the benefits likely would outweigh the expense, considering MPI's 2017 annual report lists the cost of combined physical injuries and property damages at approximately $778 million.

Currently, we've got a sign for the back of my car that says "Novice driver." I appreciate that Manitoba Public Insurance makes them, because at least it gives other drivers a heads up that they need to give us a fairly wide berth.

It's a small thing, but it makes me feel slightly better. 

All three of my boys are only months or weeks away from taking their road tests, and while they are all rational human beings who should make sensible drivers, that has nothing to do with what they may encounter out there. 

My heart is in my mouth when I think of any one of them on the road on their own. 

It reminds me of what my dad used to say to my brother and me: "It's not YOU I'm worried about.

"It's all the other nuts out there."

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About the Author

Jo Davies is a freelance writer and office assistant who is never at a loss for an opinion. She is currently writing her first novel, set in Jamaica.

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