Commentary: 'Driver's ed' never really ends

Being a reporter at The Aegis means writing about car accidents, or at least knowing they constantly go on - some of them fatal, others merely very serious and tying up traffic and hospitals.

I guess as long as there are vehicles, there will be people crashing them, but covering many such unfortunate incidents reminds me of my own experience learning to drive and trying to get the hang of the big, wide world of roadways and traffic safety.


My dad, who was the main one involved in teaching me to drive, always made it clear that a car is basically a dangerous weapon.

Plus, you are on the road with hundreds or thousands of people who have the same device, moving at 40 or 60 or even more miles per hour.


In my case, my dad's caution was a little overzealous because, when I turned 15, I was far from the kind of kid who is itching to drive as soon as they qualify for a learner's permit.

I think the main reason I wanted to drive was so I could stop getting taken to school by my friend's sister. Plus, it was just a rite of passage, everyone was going to driver's ed, and I guess I figured: "Now or never."

(Taking the bus in high school was seen as extremely uncool and, therefore, out of the question. In reality, I lived within walking distance of the school and my parents could have made me walk, but that's another story.)

I remember when my dad first let me try to drive the car, in the parking lot of a BJ's. I remember feeling terrified when I took my foot off the brake and the car slowly rolled forward.

In that moment, it seemed impossible to imagine I would ever be regularly driving such a huge vehicle around town.

Obviously, I got better since then, and I now drive more than any sane person probably should, including one time that I drove across half the country by myself.

But back to my dad. Another piece of "advice" I got - and this one is a little controversial, so discuss amongst yourselves! - was: "No matter what insurance companies think, an accident is always YOUR fault."

He seemed to think there is always something you could have done to prevent the accident, whether it be constantly checking your rear-view mirror or not assuming anything about other drivers' actions.

Regardless of the truth of this philosophy, the effect of it was that it made me extremely aware of my surroundings and totally distrustful of other drivers, which I think is really good.

Even in more recent years, when I did get into fender-benders, I heard my dad's voice saying, "An accident is always YOUR fault," and felt guilty about the whole thing.

(In fairness, my dad himself seems to have been a big risk-taker when he was younger. He used to ride a motorcycle, which he sold when he married my mom, so I don't know how he suddenly turned into Mr. Safety.)

I sometimes wonder, though, if other people, especially the ones who drink and drive, got as stern a driving education as I did.


I wonder if some of them were just told, "Well, be careful out there," and handed the car keys.

In reality, driving is absolutely not a right. I would even disagree with the common wisdom that it's a "privilege." I think driving is a huge, huge responsibility that requires a significant amount of maturity.

Maybe if more people felt a little less confident in the driver's seat and a little more humbled by the massive piece of metal they're in, the roads would be much safer.

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