Friday, June 30, 2017

Random driving test memory...

Picture it.  The year is 1988.  I turned 16 that year and that meant getting my driver's license.

In those days, I actually enjoyed driving.  I remember my dad took me to the high school parking lot and taught me how to drive his Chevy Astro van, which had an automatic transmission.  Then he let me drive around Gloucester Courthouse, which was no small thing, since many people have crashed into the brick wall surrounding the original courthouse area.  Seriously... I can't find a photo of a recent crash at the moment, but there is a wall that surrounds the buildings which date from several hundred years ago.  It's been hit many times by folks who were either unaware or drunk.

In 1988, kids in Virginia were allowed to get their learner's permits when they were 15 years 8 months old.  So in February of that year, after having passed driver's ed, I took the written test and barely passed it, if I recall correctly.  I got my permit and spent the next four months learning to drive.  In May, I was fortunate enough to score a spot in the after school driving range.  I want to say it cost $75 for about four weeks of on the road instruction.  I remember the kids who were in that class with me.  One of them is a friend today.  We spent time learning maneuvers like parallel parking, which I still haven't really mastered.  Then we drove in the countryside.  I remember getting dinged for driving too slowly.

Unlike some of my classmates, I was able to finish the range part of driver's ed before my sixteenth birthday.  So when I was sixteen, I was able to take the road test, which basically consisted of a drive around a block or two in the Gloucester Courthouse area.  It was super easy.  Didn't involve anything like parallel parking or even backing up.

Last night, I was reminded that in Virginia, kids who are newly licensed have to go to court.  My court date must have been before my birthday, because I distinctly remember getting my actual license on the day I turned 16.  And I also remember the day after I got my license, I drove to a horse show and on my way home in the dark, hit a deer.  I did about $700 worth of damage to my dad's van and I was sure I'd be in big trouble.  Actually, my parents were pretty reasonable.  I remember they even comforted me when I showed them the damage.  I was sure they wouldn't let me drive anymore, but it was pretty obvious that I hit a deer.  There was hair in the grill.  Incidentally, to date that has been my most serious accident.

Anyway... about that court date.  People in our local Facebook group were surprised that in Virginia, kids have to go to court before they can get their license.  I remember having to dress up, showing up for the session, and rising for the judge, who proceeded to give us a lecture about obeying traffic laws.  I remember him talking about the speedometer and paying attention to it.  He said that if your speedometer isn't broken, you should know exactly what your speed is.

It wasn't a long session.  Basically it was just a reminder to drive safely.  I don't know if the judge's talk really does much to make teens drive better.  It seems like just another hoop to jump through, as some parents who are moving to Germany with teenagers are finding out.  One mom in our local Facebook group says her daughter has done everything she needs to do to get her license, but the court date is in three months.  By that time, they will be in Germany.  And here in Germany, you have to be 18 to drive, although some people are saying that American kids with licenses are able to get the DoD permit.

It was funny to remember that "driver's license ceremony".  I was surprised they still did it.  I had forgotten all about it.  And then it occurred to me that next year, I will have been a licensed driver for 30 fucking years!

Damn, I'm getting old.


  1. It would seem that if prospective drivers had to hear a judge, sitting for an hour or so in actual traffic court might be more valuable. Then again, what do I know?

    My brother has been driving since he was five. That's the age at which my Uncle ralph first had the BOYS (and only the boys) start driving vehicles for short distances on the farms and dairies (NEVER on publlc roadways). I think it was crazy, but neither my brother nor my Uncle Ralph's two sons has ever had an accident, so maybe there's something to it. If you live through driving when your age is still in the single digits, it ends up being a good thing. if not, oh, well . . .

    For most of us, having an accident is a rite of passage, and if we're lucky enough not to be killed or seriously hurt, it make us much more conscientious drivers. My two accidents were the other dirvers' fault (which is merely a stroke of luck for me, as I wasn't and still am not a better than average driver, but still they made me more careful. I'm, if anything, overly cautious, but if you pay too much attention to what is happening 1/4 mile down the road, you're in even more danger from what jumps out right in front of you.

    The husband of one of my dad's sisters lost a nephew when he hit a deer. The family of two parents and eight kids was traveling in a van pulling a large camping trailer in Utah or Idaho or Wyoming-- somewhere in the morridor. His parents were tired, so they had the sixteen-year-old drive. He hit a deer, and the trailer jack-knifed, then (I think) flipped. (Is that something that can happen? I don't remember the particulars - just that the vehicle and trailed jack-knifed.)One of the eight children was killed.

    When my mom was a kid --after California's Proposition 13, or whichever one it was that drastically cut school funding, but before the full impact of the proposition was felt -- behind-the-wheel driver's training was free through the schools. It was in society's best interests to fund driver training, as the kids who could not have afforded it would have either driven unlicensed or waited until they turned 18, when it was no longer required, and gotten their licenses without behind-the -wheel training.

    When my mom lived far outside of city limits, she drove her own car that she bought when she was about 13. That was both stupid and irresponsible of her parents.

    My parents couldn't stand t teach me to drive, because I was far from a natural and it made them terribly nervous to be in a car that I was driving.. My aunts and uncles taught me.

  2. Bill says he failed the driver's test when he took it the first time.

    1. I didn't blog about it, but I failed the first DRIVING test, too. I did fine on the written one but failed the driving part. It was humiliating, but I lived through it. It took me three months to get the nerve to take it again.

    2. My driving test was ridiculously easy.

    3. I turned left into the right lane of a two-lane street during my driving test. Even though a driver would never be ticketed for doing that here, it's an automatic fail on a driver's test. It happened in probably the first three minutes of the test. The examiner immediately halted the test. I should have known better.

      I'm back at the condo now, but I was pulled over and had to do a roadside DUI eval a little over ninety minutes ago. I passed and have no alcohol in my system, but it was most unnerving.

      I didn't do anything wrong to be pulled over in the first place, but I look young and it was very late, and I was driving a car with four others in it, three of whom ARE probably legally intoxicated, and two of whom totally look the part. The CHP could probably smell the alcohol on the others when he approached my window. The CHP admitted after the fact that I was not driving erratically and had done nothing wrong, and that it was all based on appearances. The CHP was concerned about whether or not I was too tired to be driving, but was fine. I napped this afternoon.

      I had to recite the alphabet backwards, to get out of the car and walk a straight line, and to breathe into the breathalizer. I had considered having a single drink. If I had done so it would have been very early, and I ate, so I surely would have been well below the legal limit even had I ordered the daiquiri I was considering, but I was glad just the same to have my bAC 0.00.

    4. Whew. You are very lucky. I have never had to do a field sobriety test, but there were nights when I probably should have been pulled over. I rarely drive now, though. Just to the vet's with my dogs.


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