I have a modest proposal: Every driver in America who cannot produce proof of having taken and passed drivers ed at some point in the foggy, distant past needs to be immediately enrolled as a remedial student. Pass the class, and you get your license back.
Oh, I get it. Drivers ed faded years ago because back when the schools did it – I had the basketball coach, a serious-minded guy who taught the class with diligence and skill – it made sense and it worked. But cost, logistics, endless and paranoid fretting over litigation – pick one – meant that a common-sense policy and a clear social good had to go.
The result? Just look around. OK, most drivers are just fine. It’s that one in 10 or maybe one in five who cannot understand concepts such as “adjust to the prevailing speed” and “adjust to weather, congestion and other factors” who causes all the trouble. And being able to get it right is not the same as choosing to do it right. No amount of education stops a driver committed to turning left on red. I understand that.
But I can’t help but think if more people were at least exposed to the basics that we would have less trouble with everything from four-way stops to the jerk doing 85 in a 60 and weaving between lanes. I could be wrong.
There’s a short, narrow street near the office – Short Avenue, actually – that’s clearly marked one way. Drivers ignore that all the time. The other day, I saw two drivers at the same time going the wrong way. What are the odds that two drivers in succession cannot comprehend a simple “Do Not Enter” in red and white and posted on both sides of the intersection? Maybe we need to bring back English class, too.
Don’t give me that jive about the state driver’s test going any good. I took one actual driving test in 19-something, when I was far less skilled and experienced, and still managed to pass. In four decades since – and I have changed my state of residence four times – I’ve never had to take more than a written test. That’s not right.
Still, just about every driver can keep it below light speed and maybe avoid tailgating long enough to pass a test. This is more about attitude than aptitude.
The essential rule of driving is that you will get your turn but you need to wait your turn. That’s less about being a decent person than it is about safety. Maybe – maybe – the return of drivers ed would get that point across.
But in a culture that seems to grow more angry and crude by the day, the suggestion to wait one’s turn is met with a blank stare. Small wonder.
– Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Follow him on Twitter: @FoxEJC