So you've saved up enough money to buy your first car? And you say you plan to drive it? In the District?
Then let me help you take the first step toward becoming roadworthy by passing the written part of the D.C. driver's license test, using questions from the authentic D.C. Bureau of Motor Vehicle Services Permit Control Division Operator's Study Guide.
Remember, most questions have two kinds of answers -- the one needed to pass the test, and the one that reflects the way people really drive.
How many feet before you make a turn should you signal that you are going to turn? The choices: (a) 50 feet; (b) 100 feet; (c) while turning.
The answer practiced on the street is obviously none of the above. But for a better score, say (b).
Some questions require a little logic, like this one:
What causes the most accidents?
The choices: (a) the road; (b) the driver; (c) the car. The answer is (b), because once (c) rolls through the potholes that cover (a), (b)'s brains get so rattled that it is impossible to control what is left of (c).
Pay careful attention to trick questions, such as this:
You are coming to a circle which you are about to enter. You shall: (a) continue into the circle traffic at a slow speed; (b) yield right of way to vehicles already within circle; (c) use the outside lane only.
The correct answer is (b), because by yielding to traffic, you will always be "about to enter" the circle.
Remember, the statement never said anything about actually entering the circle, and therein lies the trick.
Even more thought is required for questions dealing with bicyclists.
There is a bike path alongside the roadway, yet there is a cyclist in front of you using the road instead of the path. You should: (a) honk at the cyclist and point to the path; (b) notify a policeman; (c) treat the cyclist as you would any other vehicle, since a cyclist is allowed to use either the roadway or the bike path.
The answer is (c), although there is some disagreement as to whether this means you can take your pickup truck onto the bike path.
So let's try another one:
In the District of Columbia, a bicycle is classified as a (a) pedestrian who must use the sidewalk; (b) toy to used in the backyard; (c) vehicle whose driver has the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of other vehicles.
The rule book answer is (c), although you will never find a cyclist standing in a vehicle registration or inspection line, nor do they have to take any tests.
Moving right along, the new driver also will face questions involving the vehicle in a state of rest. For instance:
You are not allowed to park a car in any one place on District of Columbia streets longer than (a) 18 hours; (b) 24 hours; (c) 72 hours.
The street answer is about two minutes -- which is the time it takes for parking enforcement personnel to spot your vehicle.
But just to humor the examiner, mark (c).
Here's another one:
Why is double parking prohibited?
The choices: (a) because the car at the curb cannot get out; (b) because it blocks traffic and causes accidents; (c) your car may roll away since there is no curb.
The answer is (b) unless you are a delivery truck driver.
Having something attached to or hanging from the rear-view mirror is (a) against the regulations; (b) permitted depending upon how big it is (c) permitted if the object does not obstruct the driver's view.
The answer is (a) -- and ain't that a laugh.
Along those same lines:
When may you use your horn?
The choices: (a) to warn pedestrians and drivers in emergencies; (b) to warn slow drivers and careless pedestrians; (c) to attract attention that you have the right of way.
The answer is (a), although the examiners must surely have forgotten to include (d), to let the neighbors know you have arrived to pick up a date.
At any rate, you are now ready to take the actual road test, which you will discover -- in a subsequent column -- has absolutely nothing to do with the written word.