What ought to be taught in driver’s ed

When I last spoke with my former stepson, we laughed again about him taking his driver’s test at 16. I’d sat silently in the backseat of my own car for the ride, wincing at every error, dying to comment.

It was also the longest car ride of my life, knowing it would result in another teen on the road, unequipped with the real skills one needs to be a successful driver today. Fortunately, I’m equipped to enlighten you. Russ Raymond, stop reading here.

We’ll start with this cheery affirmation: It is possible to get back more money from your auto insurer than you’ve paid out in premiums. I’m living proof. Let’s just say don’t skimp on coverage. And strongly consider getting a highway construction worker death policy rider to offset those posted $7,500 fines.

Throw out that textbook, hands at 10:00 and 2:00 o’clock nonsense you learned from your driving instructor, who was probably on the take from Timex. With today’s digital watches, there’s no longer a 10:00 and 2:00, anyway. You use one hand to press a button to check the time, so start driving one handed like everyone else.

Shed the “always drive 25 near schools” stuffy rules your instructor propagandized. We’re heading to the high speeds of the highway, where reality-based driving skills strut their stuff. Here’s my top-seven list of the most essential:

EXCEED THE SPEED LIMIT – With gas prices way down, a great way to support the economy is by burning through more fuel. The difference between traveling the speed limit and doing 10 over could mean someone’s continued employment. Do your patriotic part and put the pedal to the metal. Should you get stopped, explain to the trooper you are a committed job developer, NOT a habitual speeder.

DRIVE OFFENSIVELY – Defensive driving is good, but remember, a good offense is the best defense. If you have to choose, better to be the one causing the accident than becoming the victim of one. Makes crazy sense. Control your destiny.

TALK ON THE PHONE – Your driver’s ed teacher was right about this one: Pulling off on the shoulder should be reserved for emergencies. So you need to make all your routine, non-emergency, pizza-ordering phone calls while driving 75 mph past truckers, using your non-dominant hand (or tongue) to press buttons.

PASS ON THE RIGHT – Not all drivers have as many places to be as you do, so they may not be as diligent about exceeding the speed limit, or as proficient at highway pizza ordering. This results in clogged left lanes of major highways. The sooner the better you learn to pass on the right. Race the engine as you do so, to ensure the slowpokes are aware of your presence. No exceptions.

EAT AND DRIVE – Life is short. Don’t order that safe-to-eat snack wrap. Get a triple burger, banana split, bowl of chili, or a salad where you have to add the packets of nuts, rice noodles, chicken chunks and dressing yourself. Why do you think that bar runs across the center of your steering wheel, anyway?  Look it up in your owner’s manual. It’s called the “fast food balancer.” Or at least it should be.

MAP-READ WHEREVER – Younger drivers are more likely to drive POS vehicles than GPS-equipped vehicles. So you need to learn how to read both a full-sized road map and the smaller (inaccurate, ink smudged by coffee at crucial junctions) Map Quest direction sheets, while driving through construction. Use the spork from the Nachos Bell Grande you’re eating to punch eye holes through the paper. It’s easier than laying the cartography across the steering wheel.

DRIVE DISTRACTED – Get an early handle on distracted driving, including purse rummaging, glove box cleaning, CD sorting, ashtray emptying, eyebrow plucking, groping for change on the floor, and fondling your honey along the freeway. You need to prepare for future distracting passengers (a.k.a. kids). As time-outs are not practical during Munchkin prisoner transport, develop now your attention-getting, snow scraper-over-the-backseat stabbing savvy. Hint: Long-handled scrapers work best.

Like everything else, there’s no substitute for practice. Head out on the highway and start practicing these reality-based driving skills. You won’t be sorry, although others might.

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