Tag Archives: Driver Education

Driven From Distraction To Danger

Inexperience added to distraction equals a massively dangerous drive time.

I’m going through my third mind-bending, adrenaline-scarring, foot-stomping, squeal-stuffing, expletive-deleting, smile-faking, terror-strangling trip through driver education just now, which might possibly mean I’m a bit sensitive to this sort of thing.

The thing is, distraction is a huge problem for drivers of all ages, not just the road newbies.

In addition to my oldest young dude, Sarcasmo, I also know a friend my age who, only a few years ago, was looking down at the radio while driving through a parking lot and — with mind distracted — rammed into a parked car. And the strangest thing was that, in both cases, the parked car actually jumped out in front of both drivers.

At least according to their stories. Regardless, allowing yourself to be distracted can be as dangerous as getting behind the wheel after downing a few adult bevies.

Distraction can be even more dangerous than drinking for new drivers because they’ve been told again and again not to drink and drive and, for the most part, they listen to that. How often have you told your young dudette not to look at the radio while driving? Or answer the phone?

There are plenty of new advertising campaigns that warn drivers of the dangers of texting while driving. I know several adults who have listened to that and now will not even read a text while stopped at a red light. I know even more teens who say they don’t, but then respond suspiciously quickly when texted while out.

That, my friends, is plenty dangerous.

An inexperienced driver who reaches for a cellphone increases the risk for a crash by more than 700 percent, a new study found.

Using accelerometers, cameras, global positioning devices and other sensors, researchers studied the driving habits of 42 newly licensed 16- and 17-year-old drivers and 167 adults with more experience. The machines recorded incidents of cellphone use, reaching for objects, sending text messages, adjusting radios and controls, and eating and drinking.

Eating while driving almost tripled the risk of a crash, while texting or looking at something on the side of the road nearly quadrupled that risk.

Distraction is dangerous.

Think of it this way. You’re in a rolling hunk of metal traveling down the road at a high rate of speed. This hunk of metal and plastic now has massive inertia and it’s held to the road by only four small pieces of rotating rubber. That’s it.

If you want to understand inertia, try holding a small weight in your hand and then spinning around. You’ll feel the weight pulling away from your spinning body. Now try to quickly stop spinning, or pull the weight straight up.

That fight against what you’re trying to do? That’s inertia. That’s inertia from a small weight and powered only by your spinning body.

Imagine tons of metal and plastic and glass, moving many, many, many times faster than your spinning body. Changing direction or stopping isn’t so easy with that, is it?

Because of that difficulty, it’s of upmost importance that drivers stay focused on the road ahead, behind and to the side, so they can react as soon as possible and get their vehicle under control.

Getting distracted by a text or a good song on the radio is every driver’s worst enemy because it can happen at any moment and will do so without your knowledge.

According to the study, older drivers only significantly raised their risk of an accident while dialing a phone. Not only that, drivers from every age group already spend 10 percent of their driving time looking at something off the road.

“When young people engage in tasks that take their eyes away from the roadway, they’re increasing their risk dramatically,” said the lead author, Charlie Klauer, a research scientist at Virginia Tech University. “Kids need to have their eyes forward. To add any other distraction into this is really increasing the risk.”

Have a talk with your young dudes and dudettes about driving without distractions today.

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The Luckiest Unluckiest Day Ever

It wasn’t until later that I realized he was born on Friday the 13th.

Unluckiest of unlucky days in Western culture, Friday the 13th is a triskaidekaphobics worst nightmare. It rarely comes about, but when it does, it’s usually wielding a machete and wearing a hockey goalie mask.

But not this month. On June 13, Casa de Dude celebrates! We kick up our heels and dance and sing (although not as much these days for reasons that should become apparent in only a few moments) and just generally enjoy life because June 13, this year falling on a Friday, is the day our family became complete.

Friday the 13th of June is Hyper Lad’s birthday. This is the year he’s turning 15, which means he’s already got his grubby little paws held out and ready to take the car keys and go for a little spin. The fact that he has no learner’s permit because his driver education teacher still hasn’t gotten around to him yet. . . Well, that means little.

He’s fifteen. He’s ready to drive. At least in his mind.

I say our family became complete because Hyper Lad is the youngest of our three young dudes. He’s six years younger than our oldest and five years younger than our middle son. In fact, we weren’t supposed to have Hyper Lad at all.

My wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Getting Her Way, and I thought we were finished procreating (although not practicing) after Zippy the Travelin’ Boy. Eventually, though, she began to yearn for another female in the house. Once she said that, it became apparent that I really needed a daughter as well since I look darn good on the dance floor wearing a tux at a wedding.

Instead, we got lucky and didn’t get our wish. Instead of a girl, we got a Hyper Lad and we couldn’t be happier.

Our oldest son, Sarcasmo, had to suffer through first-child paranoia as his mom and I freaked out about anything and everything related to our darling. Our middle son, Zippy the Travelin’ Boy, stayed sheltered in the harbor of our good graces and had vigilant parents every on guard. Relaxed, but on guard.

By the time Hyper Lad came along, we were pretty much okay with him doing just about anything short of juggling the razor-sharp blades we kept in the open, unlocked drawers in the kitchen. And even that, provided he had a good reason for it.

Having older brothers, Hyper Lad has benefited from being around (slightly) more mature age cohorts for most of his life. He’s probably more emotionally mature at 15 than his brothers were when they were his age.

Since he was smaller than everyone around whom he wanted to hang, he had to develop a quick left and an even quicker wit to survive. And he has.

His teachers see the same things that we do: one of the sharpest minds, with one of the most wicked senses of humor to have come around in a long while. He’ll frequently make an offhand joke about current affairs we happen to be discussing that’s amazingly quick, amazingly on-target and blisteringly funny.

His mom and I will just turn and look at each other — once the laughter finally dies down — and trade astonished gazes.

While Hyper Lad lives up to his name (and his blog name here), he’s not constantly rushing around and ignoring everyone else. The young dude is consistently polite (to non-dad people) in almost every situation and looks for ways to help everyone he can.

Not to say he’s perfect, of course. I mean, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve come thiiiiiiisssssss close to popping an aneurysm in my brain from the crap he will drop — literally drop — wherever it is he happens to be done with it. If that means he’s finished with a band-aid wrapper six inches from a trashcan. . . Then he drops the wrapper to the floor six inches from the trashcan.

And, being a teenager, he’s now discovered the joys of sleeping in until the sun warms up. . . say, sometime around 3 pm.

So, yeah, he’s got a lot of things to work on. But, here’s the deal about that: We’re just so glad we get a chance to watch as he does. It’s going to be an interesting experience.

Here’s to you, Hyper Lad! Have a happy birthday and know we love you. And we dearly want to live through you learning to drive, so please work on that.

 

We also take a moment to remember Hyper Lad’s Great Grandmother, my Grandmother, Irene Jones. A wonderful woman, my grandmother died three years ago. She and Hyper Lad were both born on June 13 and called each other Birthday Buddies. So here’s to you as well, Mama. You’re missed and loved.

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Post-Prom Report

Yes, I know it’s taken far too long, but here it is. Thank goodness that’s over. Well, for me at least. Taking my middle little dude, his date, and another couple to the prom made me a nervous wreck. The worst part is that when I’m nervous, I tend to talk. A lot. No, I mean, really a lot. Not a good thing when I promised my middle little dude that I wouldn’t embarrass him. Too much. Still, I survived and he had a great, great time so I think that’s a night made of win.

The big day started after the little dude got out of driver education. We went to the local grocery store floral department and picked up the corsage we’d ordered earlier in the week. That’s when I started taking pictures. I don’t think I stopped for most of the night. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have a couple of really nice shots of my steering wheel. That afternoon we caught a movie called Monsters vs. Aliens to kill a little time and to laugh a whole heck of a lot. When that was over, we headed home, we both headed to the showers and got ready to change.

While the little dude was washing up (apparently when you get old, you find you can shower very, very fast), I went outside to the limo/mini-van and started doing a little more cleaning, just to make extra sure nothing. . . untoward happened that could have been prevented. That is, I didn’t want the girls getting grossed out by seeing the mini-van in it’s natural state.

Since it was a big night, of course it started raining a couple of hours before the middle little dude was scheduled to pick up his date. Still, the rain slacked off enough so he was gallant with the umbrella, rather than looking like a drowned rat.

It’s amazing the stuff that will get a parent choked up. For me, it was watching the little dude put a wrist corsage on his date. Even though they were going as friends, he still got the corsage. My little dude is growing up. *choke*

After a nice dinner at Maggianos (we’d gone over the menu online earlier so he would know what he wanted and not fumble around or order anything that might spill on his cool suit), the daters got dropped off at the dance and I headed home to wait for the pick-up call, which came about two hours later. (hrumph. Kids these days. When I went to a prom we knew that meant getting home when the sun was going back up. Still, probably a better idea. I know it was safer.)

The other parents had already picked up their respective prom-goers and my little dude was waiting for me, sweaty and smiling. Of course I peppered him with questions, but got basically nowhere. Only learning that he had a good time. Later, I talked to one of his teachers who was a chaperone there and she said he really “cut loose” and enjoyed himself.

Even better, I found out he’s a pretty good dancer. Must have skipped a generation because I dance like a spastic elephant, hopped up on quaaludes and Red Bull.

— Richard

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